Living in a green, leafy neighborhood could cut heart attack risk

Spending your golden years in a place with lots of trees and other vegetation can be visually pleasing — and it also might be good for your heart, according to a new study.

University of Miami researchers crunched the numbers to determine that nearly 250,000 Medicare recipients living in the greenest parts of Miami-Dade County were 25 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those in the least green neighborhoods.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions conference and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Green space encourages physical activity and cuts air pollution,” said Scott Brown, lead author the study and a research associate professor of public health sciences and architecture at UM’s Miller School of Medicine. “Some studies suggest even viewing nature and greenness can be beneficial.”

While other studies say the health benefits of nearby green space can include lowered risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the researchers say this is the first one to focus on heart diseases at the block level. If the results are confirmed by other studies, that could guide city planners to focus more on neighborhood parks and tree-planting near homes instead of the overall percentage of green space.

“This research could be an argument for having regional park planning that includes greening streetscapes and parks within walking distance of homes,” Brown said.

The researchers measured the greenness of Miami-Dade’s 36,000 census blocks using satellite imagery. Greenery typically absorbs visible light and hard surfaces reflect it.

Medicare data from those same census blocks showed rates of heart attack, ischemic heart disease, heart failure and a type of irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation in people 65 and older.

The researchers found a significant correlation between living near green space and a lowered risk for three of the four heart diseases studied. Along with the 25% lower risk of heart attack, people living in the greenest parts of Miami saw their risk drop by 20% for ischemic heart disease and 16% for heart failure.

For AFib, however, risk only fell 6%, which Brown said might be more attributable to genetics.

More work remains to closely tie living in a leafy neighborhood to reduced risk of heart disease. The Miami researchers concede one other limitation of their study is that it focused on a single large oceanside county.

Also, when Brown and his colleagues factored in the incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the greenness benefits were much less dramatic.

Well-established guidelines for preventing heart disease include staying active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. If living near green space is to join the list, research will need to more precisely show why it’s heart-healthy.

For the full news story visit American Heart Association News.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

AD. American Heart Association logo. Know your blood pressure numbers. And what they mean. Gain Control. button: learn more.


AD: American Heart Association logo. American Diabetes Association logo. Know diabetes by heart logo. Living with diabetes? Inspire others. Submit story button.


AD. American Heart Association Support Network. Everyone's diagnosis story is different and sharing yours can help others. Join the Support Network and share your experience.


AD: American Heart Association logo. Symptoms. Always feeling tired isn't normal. Learn the signs of Heart Valve Disease.


AD. American Heart Association logo. Know your blood pressure numbers. And what they mean. Gain Control. button: learn more.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Special Topic Supplements

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Heart News

Heart health news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.


Articles, poems and art submitted by heart disease survivors and their loved ones.

Life's Simple 7

Improving your health is as easy as minding seven simple health factors and behaviors. Tips and information to help you improve your health and enhance your quality of life.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These heart patients, their loved ones and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.