If a person lives in an area rich in foliage, their grass may indeed be greener, at least when it comes to risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. That is according to a large study led by Jochem Klompmaker, Jaime Hart, and Peter James at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston.
In the December 20 JAMA Network Open, they reported that, across the contiguous U.S., people living in towns with lots of green space were least likely to have either neurodegenerative disease. This correlation was strongest in those over 85 and in blacks. The authors think protection may partly stem from less pollution in greener areas.
First author Klompmaker and colleagues correlated residential ZIP code “greenness” with hospital admissions with an AD or PD diagnosis among 61.7 million Medicare beneficiaries over age 65. Eighty-four percent were Caucasian, and 88 percent had an income high enough to exclude them from Medicaid. From 2000 to 2016, there were 7.7 million cases of AD and 1.2 million of PD diagnosed among this cohort.
“This analysis is the largest dataset examined for how the natural environment influences risk of hospitalization for AD and PD,” wrote Caleb (Tuck) Finch, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
ZIP code greenness refers to the “normalized difference vegetation index,” or the density of vegetation captured on satellite images by infrared sensing. Any bright pixel was deemed to contain chlorophyll—be it grass, shrubs, trees, crops, etc.—and was reported as a ratio of green to non-green pixels.
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Living in Greener Pastures May Cut Risk for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s
Klompmaker JO, Laden F, Browning MH, Dominici F, Jimenez MP, Ogletree SS, Rigolon A, Zanobetti A, Hart JE, James P. Associations of Greenness, Parks, and Blue Space With Neurodegenerative Disease Hospitalizations Among Older US Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2022. Dec 1;5(12):e2247665. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.47664