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Go Green, Live Long

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The greenery that surrounds your home is more than eye candy. It also protects your lungs, helps ward off depression, protects you from cancer, improves your kidney health—and might even help you live longer.

So finds a study of more than 100,000 women living in nearly all US states. Researchers analyzed health records and compared them with geographic satellite data for “greenness”—a measure of chlorophyll, and a pretty good gauge of how much vegetation surrounded their homes.

Over an eight-year period, women who lived in the top fifth for greenery, compared with those in the bottom fifth, were 12% less likely to die. That was true regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status or whether the residents smoked. While this particular study was focused on women, similar health benefits for greenery have also been reported for men, the researchers note.

Why the green longevity bonus? Vegetation, the researchers note, helps protect against pollutants that can increase the risk for lung and kidney disease and cancer, improves mood and provides opportunities to be more active. Further analysis revealed that women surrounded by more greenery were less likely to have respiratory illness, kidney disease, cancer or depression. They also used fewer antidepressants. Living in green areas may allow for a healthier lifestyle—in fact, the researchers did find an increase in physical activity as well.

Nor was it just homes with big lawns that were healthier. While the relationship was strongest for the 250 meters surrounding the homes, it also held true (although to a slightly lesser degree) for an area of 1,250 meters—nearly a mile. So even if you don’t have a big green property, if you live near parks and other green spaces, you’re in the pink.

Forests, we’re told, are the lungs of the earth. But the lawns and fields and trees that surround our homes also help our lungs—and our spirits. They may even help us hang around longer to enjoy the scenery.

If you live near clean grass, try walking on it barefoot to energize your body…and don’t forget greenery inside your house. Even when you’re in an office, you can stay mentally sharp by gazing at a green scene.

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Source: Study titled "Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women" by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, all in Boston, published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Date: April 26, 2016 Publication: Health Insider
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