It would seem that a reduction in the number of green spaces on the surface of the earth does not only harm the ecosystem, but it also affects heart health. A new study suggests that having more green spaces can help improve air quality and also reduce the risk of dying from a heart-related illness.

In a study that is meant for release at a virtual meeting of the American Heart Association this week, researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine pointed out how an increase in greenness and air quality has been linked to a lower number of heart-related deaths.

The researchers measured "greenness," which refers to a measure of shrubs, trees, and grass on earth, calculated by NASA imaging. The researchers measured the greenness of counties in the US, then compared the results with the death rates found in the Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To measure air quality, the researchers used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Surprisingly, the researchers found that with every 0.10 unit of increase in greenness, there was a reduction of 13 deaths from a heart ailment per 100,000 adults. On the other hand, an increase of one microgram of particulate matter per one cubic metre of air also increased heart disease-related deaths by 39 per 100,000 adults.

In a news release, Dr William Aitken, a cardiology fellow at the Miller School of Medicine, said that they have found that there is a direct correlation between air quality and greenness. He said that higher air quality also showed higher greenness and the latter in turn was associated with lower death rates from heart disease.

Aitken revealed that with what they have found from their research where higher greenness also has potential cardiovascular benefits, he underscored how important it is for a dialogue about improving overall health and quality of life. It must also include environmental policies, which support or promote greenness. He also said that supporting greenness would mean promoting clean water and air, and minimising exposure to environmental hazards.

A separate study conducted by researchers at Cambridge University revealed that higher air pollution correlated with higher COVID-19 mortality. In both studies, air quality is given due importance, especially in today's times.

Green Space and the Heart
More green space means lower heart-related deaths. Photo: Pixabay