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Gardening is Associated with Better Cardiovascular Health Status Among Older Adults in the US: Analysis of the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey

Published:October 30, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2022.10.018
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      Abstract

      Background

      Gardening benefits health in older adults, but previous studies have limited generalizability or do not adequately adjust for socio-demographic factors or physical activity (PA).

      Objective

      We examined health outcomes, fruit and vegetables (F&V) intake, and 10-year mortality risk among gardeners and exercisers compared to non-exercisers.

      Design

      Cross-sectional data of non-institutionalized US adults in the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a landline and cellular phone survey.

      Participants/setting

      Adults aged 65+ reporting any PA (n=146,047) were grouped as gardeners, exercisers, or non-exercisers.

      Main outcome measures

      Outcomes included cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, mental and physical health, F&V intake, and 10-year mortality risk.

      Statistical analyses

      Summary statistics were calculated and adjusted logistic regression models were conducted to calculate odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), accounting for the complex survey design.

      Results

      The sample included 10.2% gardeners, 60.0% exercisers, and 30.8% non-exercisers. Gardeners, compared to non-exercisers, had significantly lower odds of reporting all studied health outcomes and higher odds of consuming >5 F&V/day (CVD aOR 0.60 [95% CI: 0.53-0.68], stroke aOR 0.55 [95% CI: 0.47-0.64], heart attack aOR 0.63 [95% CI: 0.55-0.73], high cholesterol aOR 0.86 [95% CI: 0.79-0.93], high blood pressure aOR 0.74 [95% CI: 0.68-0.81], diabetes aOR 0.51 [95% CI: 0.46-0.56], BMI >25 aOR 0.74 [95% CI: 0.68-0.80], poor mental health status aOR 0.50 [95% CI: 0.43-0.59], poor physical health status aOR 0.35 [95% CI: 0.31-0.39], >5 F&V per day aOR 1.56 [95% CI: 1.40-1.57], high 10-year mortality risk aOR 0.39 [95% CI: 0.36-0.42]). Male and female gardeners had significantly lower odds of reporting diabetes even when compared exercisers.

      Conclusion

      Among adults aged 65+, gardening is associated with better CVD health status including lower odds of diabetes. Future longitudinal or interventional studies are warranted to determine if promoting gardening activities can be a CVD risk reduction strategy.

      Key words

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