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Greenspace may help sharpen your mind's ability to focus

Want to sharpen your focus, pay better attention to tasks and think more clearly? Go find some greenspace. In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams explores a new study that shows greenery may help boost cognitive function.

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Trees and other greenspace may boost your thinking power. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Evidence backing the idea that greenspace is good for your mental and physical health keeps emerging. A new study shows that exposure to greenery may improve your processing speed, attention, and overall cognitive function. And it could be a way to help entire populations.

Your mind's thinking power (cognitive function) is a strong predictor of whether you'll develop dementia later in life. The new study led by Boston University School of Public Health shows that increasing greenspace in residential areas could help improve cognition function in middle-aged women. And that the boost might be the result of a reduction in depression, which is a risk factor for dementia.

“Some of the primary ways that nature may improve health is by helping people recover from psychological stress and by encouraging people to be outside socializing with friends, both of which boost mental health,” says Dr. Marcia Pescador Jimenez, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Boston public health school. “This study is among the few to provide evidence that greenspace may benefit cognitive function in older ages. Our findings suggest that greenspace should be investigated as a potential population-level approach to improve cognitive function.”

So by adding greenery — such as trees, grass and other vegetation — to neighborhoods and cities, people's brains may get a cognitive boost.

The study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

MORE HEALTH FUSION:
When arctic blasts plummet temperatures, stepping outside can be dangerous. In this Health Fusion episode, Viv Williams talks to a researcher about what intensely cold air could do to anyone's lungs.

Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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