Spending Time Outdoors Boosts Health

Posted by Lynn Bronikowski

Spending time outdoors and enjoying nature has wide-ranging health benefits, including lower blood pressure and reduced cardiovascular disease, according to a global study.

That’s the word from researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, who say exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, pre-term birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure are leading causes of stroke.

“Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn’t been fully understood,’ said Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, lead author from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “We gathered evidence from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people to see whether nature really does provide a health boost.”

The research team studied data from 20 countries including the UK, the U.S., Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan—where Shinrin yoku or “forest bathing’”is a popular practice.

“Green space” was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery.  The team analyzed how the health of people with little access to green spaces compared to that of people with the highest amounts of exposure.

“People living near greenspace likely have more opportunities for physical activity and socializing,” said Twohig-Bennett. “Meanwhile, exposure to a diverse variety of bacteria present in natural areas may also have benefits for the immune system and reduce inflammation. “Forest bathing is already really popular as a therapy in Japan—with participants spending time in the forest either sitting or lying down, or just walking around. Our study shows that perhaps they have the right idea.”

Study co-author professor Andy Jones of UEA, added, “We often reach for medication when we’re unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact.”

The research team hope that their findings will prompt healthcare professionals to recommend that patients spend more time in greenspace and natural areas. “We hope that this research will inspire people to get outside more and feel the health benefits for themselves,” said Twohig-Bennett. “Hopefully our results will encourage policymakers and town planners to invest in the creation, regeneration, and maintenance of parks and greenspaces, particularly in urban residential areas and deprived communities that could benefit the most.”

The study was published in the journal Environmental Research.

Why did he have a stroke?

Why did he have a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and food. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. There are many factors that may contribute to having a stroke. The cause of some strokes is never known. The good news is that strokes can be treated and prevented, and many fewer Americans die of stroke now than even 15 years ago.

A number of risk factors are related to stroke. Stroke risk factors include:

Lifestyle risk factors

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Heavy or binge drinking
  • Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines
  • Cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.

Medically treatable risk factors

  • High blood pressure — risk of stroke begins to increase at blood pressure readings higher than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
  • High cholesterol — a total cholesterol level above 200 milligrams per deciliter.
  • Diabetes.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm.

Other risk factors

  • Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack.
  • Being age 55 or older.
  • Race — African-Americans have higher risk of stroke than do people of other races.
  • Gender — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women. Women are usually older when they have strokes, and they are more likely to die of strokes than are men.

high blood pressure more than doubles the risk of a stroke.

The factor with the strongest link to stroke is high blood pressure which more than doubles the risk of a stroke. Talk with your healthcare professional about what may have contributed to your stroke and actions you should take to avoid secondary strokes.