By Alan Mozes
TUESDAY, December 27, 2022 (HealthDay News). Having easy access to rivers and parks seems to slow down the progression of deadly neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons.
A new study has concluded that nearly 62,000,000 Americans aged 65 or older are at risk of developing diseases. It was based upon more than a decade’s worth of data.
Jochem Klompmaker is a Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health postdoctoral fellow. He noted that “prior research has shown that natural environments — like forests, parks, and rivers — can help reduce stress and restore attention.” “Natural environments also provide a setting for physical activity, social interactions, as well as reducing exposure to noise pollution, extreme heat, and traffic noise.
Based on these observations, he and his colleagues examined hospital admissions for Alzheimer’s and related dementias as well as Parkinson’s disease.
Klompmaker made it clear that his focus was on hospital admissions and that his team was Not It is difficult to determine the initial risk of either disease. Researchers wanted to determine if increasing exposure to nature decreases the likelihood of either disease progressing quickly.
Klompmaker added that research has shown significant protective connections on this subject: The more green an older person’s environment, the lower they are at risk for developing either neurological or other illnesses.
Given that Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s are the most common neurological conditions in the United States, this finding could be of great benefit to millions.
Researchers focused their research on Medicare-eligible seniors who lived in the U.S. mainland from 2000 to 2016.
Around 55% of the participants were women and 84% were white. They were all between 65 and 74 years old when they joined the study pool.
Over the study’s 16 years, nearly 7.7 million were hospitalized for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and nearly 1.2 million were hospitalized for Parkinson’s.
Throughout, researchers stacked each patient’s ZIP code up against several types of geological survey data that collectively tallied a region’s overall “greenness.” This data included information about the area’s vegetation, and the percentage of land dedicated to parks or waterways.
End result: The green number-crunching gave mixed results.
One, there was no evidence to suggest that Alzheimer’s patients who live in areas with more waterways and parks are at lower risk.
However, those who live in areas with greater vegetation had a lower risk of being hospitalized.
The results were even better for Parkinson’s movement disorder: All measures examined showed that living in a more green environment resulted in lower hospitalization rates.
For each 16% increase in park coverage, there is a 3% decrease in the chance of being hospitalized for Parkinson’s. And living in a ZIP code in which 1% or more of the studied space was water, the risk of Parkinson’s hospitalization fell 3% relative to those in ZIP codes with fewer water bodies.
Klompmaker did not speculate on the reason why a more green environment could lower these neurological risks.
He stated that “living in or around green and/or blue spaces may have numerous beneficial health impacts”, including less pollution and less stress.
Pablo Navarrete Hernandez, a lecturer on landscape architecture at Sheffield University in England, reviewed the findings.
According to his own research, people who live in homes with lots of natural sunlight tend to be happier. He agreed with the idea that nature’s health benefits should not be undervalued.
Research shows that green spaces can increase people’s happiness and decrease anger. This is in relation to lower stress levels, Navarrete-Hernandez stated. Experiments in laboratory have also shown that the body responds to stress by being exposed to the natural world after stressful events. This includes levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
That, he said, may have a direct bearing on Alzheimer’s development. Previous studies have shown that high cortisol levels reduce volume in the hippocampus. This brain area is critical for managing stress levels and execution of essential memory functions.
Navarrete Hernandez noted that Parkinson’s sufferers tend to be more active if they live in greener areas. He said that this could be a factor in disease progression because of the fact that motor function has been preserved for a long time by being physically active.
These findings were published Dec. 20, 2008. JAMA Network Open.
For more information, click here
You can find out more at the University of Minnesota about the connection between nature and better health.
SOURCES: Jochem Klompmaker PhD, postdoctoral researcher fellow, Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Boston; Pablo Navarrete-Hernandez PhD, lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Sheffield (U.K.); JAMA Network, Dec. 20, 2022
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