If you want to get a number of benefits out of one health tip, try this: Go plant yourself a tree. Recent science shows that living among trees makes people feel subjectively healthier, reduces pollution, boosts mental health—and may also be good for heart health, according to new research.
A study in the journal Health and Place found that a lack of trees might be a risk to women’s cardiovascular health. The study analyzed health statistics in places where an invasive pest, the emerald ash borer, had decimated the local tree population. The beetle was first discovered to be killing Michigan ash trees in 2002, and has since spread to other states, encompassing 245 U.S. counties in total.
Using longitudinal data from the Women’s Health Initiative, researchers led by the USDA Forest Service, examined links between tree loss and the cardiovascular events for the 156,000 women in the initiative’s data pool. More than 14,500 post-menopausal women in the sample suffered a heart attack or stroke or died from coronary heart disease during the study period of 1991 to 2010.
The researchers found that even accounting for factors like exercise frequency, women who lived in a county where the emerald ash borer moved in and started killing trees had a 25 percent increased risk of heart disease.
This study can’t prove without a doubt that living without trees causes heart attacks (maybe some other unexamined environmental factor upped the risk of heart attacks during those years). And it didn’t sample men, about one in four of whom will die of heart disease. However, given the wealth of other studies indicating that trees benefit your health, it wouldn’t be surprising if they also keep your heart healthy, especially because of their stress-reducing effects.
[h/t: Pacific Standard]