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Blood pressure in young adulthood and residential greenness in the early-life environment of twins

Summary


Early-life exposure to residential greenness was associated with lower blood pressure in young adults

Environmental health research indicates that early life environment can influence health status during adulthood. This study adds to the research by focusing on early life exposure to traffic-related air pollution and residential greenness in relation to blood pressure in young adulthood.

Early life data on 278 Flemish twins (132 pairs) born between 1975 and 1982 were paired with their blood pressure readings as young adults (18 to 25 years of age) and their current residential surrounding greenness. The early-life data was obtained from the East Flanders Prospective Twins Study and included prenatal traffic exposure and extent of residential greenness. To distinguish between exposure early and late in life, the twins were divided into two groups: those living at the same address their whole life (non-movers) and those who were living at a different address than their birth address at the time of measurement (movers). Data analysis allowed the researchers to investigate the association between blood pressure with greenness, while adjusting for potential confounding factors (age, gender, smoking status, physical activity, BMI, sodium and potassium intake and alcohol consumption).

For twins living at the same address their entire life (non-movers), healthier blood pressure was associated with greater residential greenness. For twins who were living at a different address than their birth address at time of the measurement (movers), healthier blood pressure was associated with residential surrounding greenness at adult age as well as with residential greenness in early life. However, after additional adjustment for residential greenness exposure in adulthood, only residential greenness exposure in early-life was significantly associated with healthy blood pressure. The data showed no associations between blood pressure and distance to major roads in early life that would suggest increased exposure to traffic-related noise and air pollution.

The key finding of this study is that increased early life exposure to residential greenness was associated with lower blood pressure in young adults. This finding indicates that residential greenness has persistent effects on blood pressure. This research is consistent with other studies showing an association between high residential greenness and low blood pressure in children and adults. Since high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease and mortality, these findings have important public health implications. This may be especially relevant for policy makers and urban planners in designing healthier environments for urban residents.

Citation

Bijnens, E.M., Nawrot, T.S., Loos, R.J.F., Gielen, M., Vlietinck, R., Derom, C., Zeegers. M.P., (2017). Blood pressure in young adulthood and residential greenness in the early-life environment of twins. Environmental Health, 16(53), 1-8.

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