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More green space can reduce air pollution, improve air quality and maybe lower the risk for heart disease deaths, a new study suggests.
"We found that both increased greenness and increased air quality were associated with fewer deaths from heart disease," said researcher Dr. William Aitken, a cardiology fellow with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Greenness is a measure of trees, shrubs and grass assessed by NASA imaging of the Earth and other methods. For this study, the researchers used the Normalized Difference Vegetative Index, which measures wavelengths of visible and near-infrared sunlight reflected from the Earth's surface by NASA satellite imagery.
The research team measured greenness by county across the United States and compared it with national disease death rates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease.
They also used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality measurements of particulate matter, a type of pollution.
The investigators found that:
- For every 0.10 unit increase in greenness, deaths from heart diseases decreased by 13 deaths per 100,000 adults.
- For every 1 microgram increase in particulate matter per cubic meter of air, heart disease deaths increased by roughly 39 deaths per 100,000 adults.
"We found that areas with better air quality have higher greenness, and that having higher greenness measures, in turn, is related to having a lower rate of deaths from heart disease," Aitken said in a news release from the American Heart Association.
"Given the potential cardiovascular benefits of higher greenness measures, it's important that dialogue about improved health and quality of life include environmental policies that support increasing greenness," Aitken added. Policymakers should support greenness by promoting equitable access to green spaces, clean air and clean water, and by minimizing exposure to environmental hazards, he said.
The study results are scheduled for presentation at a virtual meeting of the American Heart Association this week. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 9, 2020
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