Staff Writer for Wake Up World
A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, known as ISGlobal, has found a correlation between residing near green spaces and lower risk for metabolic syndrome. (1, 2)
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of conditions that are co-concurrent. These include obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and atypical triglyceride levels. (1, 3)
Having one or more of these conditions places someone at greater risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. The more of these conditions existing concurrently, the greater the risk of developing serious diseases. (1, 3)
Preventing Metabolic Syndrome
Around one-third of adults in the United States have metabolic syndrome. There are some factors that increase your likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome:
- Age: Your likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome increases as you age.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese, and especially carrying excess weight around your abdomen, increases your risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Diabetes: If you have had gestational diabetes or have a family history of type 2 diabetes, it is more likely that you will develop metabolic syndrome.
- Ethnicity: In the United States, Latinos, and especially Latina women, have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Other diseases: If you have had nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, or sleep apnea, you have a higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome. (3)
However, lifestyle changes can delay or prevent the onset of serious non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. (3)
To prevent metabolic syndrome, you should do all you can to lead an overall healthy lifestyle. Specifically, you can ensure you get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise each day. Fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Avoid foods with salt and saturated fat. Maintain a healthy body weight. Do not smoke. And, new research suggests you can add increasing your exposure to green spaces to this common list of healthy lifestyle tips. (3)
ISGlobal’s study examined the connection between residential green spaces and the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome. Green spaces refer to natural locations, such as parks, sports fields, woods, meadows, wetlands, and other ecosystems. They carry several benefits for urban ecosystems. (4)
The presence of green spaces encourages physical activity and recreation. They increase air quality as trees and plants produce oxygen and filter pollution from the air. They help to cool the temperature of cities, especially when they include bodies of water. And they allow urban residents to safely transport themselves through walking or cycling. Green spaces also improve the mental health of people who have access to them. (4)
ISGlobal’s study examined the correlation of long-term exposure to green spaces and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. They studied the data of the Whitehall II study from the United Kingdom. This data was based on four clinical examinations of 6076 participants between 1997 and 2013. The study participants were between the ages of 45 and 69 years at the baseline data point. Participants underwent a series of physical tests, including weight circumference measurements, blood pressure, and blood analysis. ISGlobal established long-term exposure to green spaces through satellite images. (1, 2)
The study found that participants with greater access to green spaces had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome as a whole. Additionally, each individual component of metabolic syndrome was lowered by greater access to green space, including hypertension, weight circumference, high triglyceride levels, and high fasting glucose levels. (2)
The study acknowledged that the risk of metabolic syndrome in participants may have been lowered by increased physical activity and lowered exposure to air pollutants. Both of these factors are mitigated by the presence of green spaces. (2)
The study concluded that middle-aged and older adults who have access to residential green spaces have a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome. The study also found that women have a greater association between access to residential green spaces and lowered risk of metabolic syndrome. This is explained by the fact that women often spend more time in their residential neighborhood than men. Additionally, green spaces that had higher tree coverage were associated with greater health benefits for residents. (1, 2)
Ultimately, having access to green spaces can help decrease the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, in communities. To foster healthier cities, creating green spaces is necessary.
About the author:
Amelia Harris is a writer and eco-activist, interested in health and all things esoteric, with a passion for sharing good news and inspiring stories. She is a staff writer for Wake Up World.