Being Surrounded By Greenery Can Be Good for Your Heart

iStock.com/Givaga
iStock.com/Givaga

Living in a place with a little greenery is good for your health in more ways than one. Recent research has found that people perceive their health status as significantly better if they live around trees, and for good reason—in addition to helping you chill out, exposure to lots of green vegetation may be good for your cardiovascular health, as Cardiovascular Business reports.

A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that living in green areas is correlated with certain biomarkers for cardiovascular health. Scientists analyzed blood and urine samples from 408 people at a cardiology clinic, then compared the results to satellite-derived data on the levels of greenery around those patients’ homes (using 820-foot and half-mile radiuses).

Adjusting for age, sex, race, smoking status, “neighborhood deprivation” and other factors known to be linked heart disease rates, the researchers found that living in a green area was correlated with several markers of a healthy heart. Blood and urine samples from those participants who lived in green neighborhoods showed lower levels of sympathetic activation—the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response, which raises the heart rate and is involved in heart failure. Those participants also had reduced oxidative stress—an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can cause tissue damage and is linked to chronic disease. And they had higher angiogenic capacity, which refers to the body’s ability to form new blood vessels.

All this suggests that being around trees is somehow linked to having a healthier heart, though these are just biomarkers, not rates of heart disease or major cardiac events. But while scientists have yet to prove directly that being around trees causes your heart to be healthier, it’s not the first study to suggest a link. In 2015, a study of American women found that rates of heart disease went up in certain areas after a beetle invasion killed off a significant number of trees. Other studies have suggested that being around trees can reduce stress, which in itself may affect your risk of heart disease. Luckily, whether it qualifies as heart medicine or not, spending more time hanging out under trees couldn’t hurt.

[h/t Cardiovascular Business]

Your Balloons Are Bad for Seabirds

iStock.com/Image Source
iStock.com/Image Source

Bad news, party planners: Your balloons are killing birds. A new study spotted by Live Science reveals that these colorful decorations often end up in our oceans, where seabirds mistake them for squid and consume them.

The team of Australian researchers studied more than 1700 seabirds belonging to 51 different species. One in three of the birds had plastic in their systems. Researchers also found that the birds had a 20 percent chance of dying after ingesting a single piece of debris. Though hard plastics were consumed in greater quantities by seabirds, balloons proved to be far deadlier. Eating them is “32 times more likely to result in death than ingesting hard plastic,” researchers write in their paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Marine debris ingestion is now a globally recognized threat,” Lauren Roman, who led the study, said in a statement. “Among the birds we studied, the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections or other complications caused by gastrointestinal obstructions.”

The study also highlighted another startling statistic: 99 percent of all seabird species are predicted to ingest marine debris by 2050. That is of great concern in Australasia, which is home to the world's highest biodiversity of seabirds. Albatross and petrel species are particularly under threat, but the exact role that debris plays in that is not fully known.

Similarly, a survey from last December found microplastics in the guts of all seven sea turtle species that were studied, including the endangered green turtle and critically endangered hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles. However, these particles are smaller than balloon bits, and the consequences of ingesting microplastics are still being studied.

According to researchers, the most obvious and immediate solution is to reduce the amount of waste entering oceans.

[h/t Live Science]

Greta Thunberg, 16-Year-Old Swedish Environmental Activist, Has Been Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Greta Thunberg hasn't graduated high school yet, but she's already a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. As TIME reports, the Swedish activist is being considered for the honor in recognition of her work in the fight against climate change.

The 16-year-old first made news in August 2018, when she led a school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament. That first demonstration has evolved into the Fridays for Future movement, in which young people around the world skip class on Fridays to protest outside their nearest town hall. In addition to her on-the-ground activism, Greta Thunberg has also given a TED Talk on climate change and addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland on the subject.

Three Norwegian lawmakers nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize, with parliamentary representative Freddy Andre Oevstegaard telling the Norwegian media outlet VG, “We have nominated Greta because the climate threat may be one of the most important causes of war and conflict.” If she wins the award in October, she will become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate ever. Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she won for her work defending children's education, currently holds that title.

More than half a year after leading her first climate protest, Thunberg's movement is going strong. Student protests set for Friday, March 15 are expected to be the largest Friday for Future demonstrations yet, with tens of thousands of students in 100 countries planning to participate.

[h/t TIME]

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