Type 2 diabetes – The impact of parks and green areas on health

Our species evolved in Africa, and we are doing our best to reproduce the same effect: land covered with trees and grasses in the many places we have wandered for millennia. Parks, lawns and gardens mimic our old homeland. According to health studies, exposure to this environment is good for our health in various ways.

In July 2018, the journal Environmental Research reported on a mega study of articles on green area exposure. In mega-study, information from more than one study is composed and analyzed as a significant study. Researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, looked at 143 studies that observed 100 health measures. The following results were found for people with high exposure to green areas …

  • lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, are found in saliva,

  • a lower heartbeat,

  • a lower diastolic (lower number) blood pressure measurement,

  • better changes in heart rhythm,

  • less risk of premature birth,

  • a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes,

  • reduced death rates for all reasons,

  • lower birth weight,

  • fewer deaths from heart disease and blood vessel disease,

  • lower abnormal blood fat

  • fewer asthma attacks.

Some studies not added together showed less nervous system disease, cancer and death from lung disease.

Based on the results above, the investigators concluded that the green area is good for our health. They advise decision makers to take this information into consideration and create, maintain and improve green spaces. They call for this policy, especially for disadvantaged areas.

Researchers at the University of Essex and several other research institutions in England, Scotland and the United States came to similar conclusions when looking at the environment and health in the UK. Their work was reported in June 2018 in the journal BMC Public Health. They found that people living in poorer neighborhoods with less exposure to green spaces had …

  • higher average systolic (higher number) blood pressure measurements,

  • a high body mass index (BMI) and

  • a high C-reactive protein, a target of inflammation. Type 2 diabetes is a disease of inflammation.

Worse health measures were associated with higher levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a type of air pollution. Sulfur dioxide is released into the atmosphere as fuel emissions from cars, power plants and other industrial plants. It can be combined with water to form sulfuric acid, which when inhaled can irritate the nose, throat, bronchia and lungs. Coughing, wheezing and a feeling of tightness around the chest occur 10 to 15 minutes after people inhale the chemical. It is especially dangerous for anyone diagnosed with asthma.