Living near green spaces can do more than just provide a relaxing escape. It can also substantially lower the risk of having a stroke.
Medical researchers in Spain found that residing about 1,000 feet or less from a park or green space reduces the likelihood of a stroke by 16%. Using data from about half of the 7.5 million people in the region around Barcelona, they looked at the relationship between air pollution and strokes.
The results showed a direct relationship between nitrogen dioxide levels in the air and the risk of strokes. Increases in certain levels of nitrogen dioxide and soot particles led to respective 4% and 5% increases in stroke risk. In most locations, nitrogen dioxide is mainly caused by vehicle traffic.
But there is a remedy: The researchers noted that having green spaces near living areas can shrink that risk. And the more nearby greenery, the more robust the anti-stroke effects become.
The researchers said the study demonstrates the real and immediate impact that environments can have on health. Prior studies by the same scientists already established a relationship between the soot or noise levels and the number and severity of strokes.
And it’s not the first revelation about the benefits of green space. Previous studies by other scientists have established that open-space proximity can lead to better mental health, improved longevity and heightened well-being compared with people who spend less time in nature.
Researchers say the results are instructive for both residents and elected leaders: Officials should note the harmful, permanent effects of noise and pollution — and plan for open space accordingly.