Neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis (MS) can be devastating and, as of now, they have no cure. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of cognitive decline — and a new study has added a protective measure to the list.

The study, which was published last week in the journal Environmental Health, found that living near green spaces can reduce the risk of neurological disease.

Green space’s effect on cognitive decline

Researchers from the University of British Columbia wanted to research the associations between road proximity, exposures to air pollution, and the joint effects of noise and greenness on cognitive decline. They gathered health data from more than 670,000 adults living more than 50 yards from a major road or more than 160 yards from a major highway.

Post-analysis, the scientists discovered that living near major highways increased Parkinson’s disease and dementia risk by 14%. Tangentially, living near green spaces lowered the risk of these two disorders.

Though road proximity was also associated with increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and MS, the researchers didn’t conclude that green space would protect against these diseases.

Drawing conclusions

The study reinforces the benefits of being in nature, especially when it comes to neurological and mental health. With urbanization on the rise, doctors are prescribing a dose of nature as a supplementary remedy for disease.

If anything, taking a stroll outside will decrease your levels of stress, a key marker in many disease. “Exposure to green space significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol — a physiological marker of stress,” researcher Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett said in a 2018 study on the benefits of spending time outside.

So, even if it’s just taking your morning cup of coffee out onto the porch, closing your eyes, and taking a deep breath full of fresh air, there’s no doubt that the outdoors are healing. Make it a goal to be near something green this week — your brain and body will thank you.

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