The world-renowned Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, based in Singapore, was built on the CEO’s request that “one’s blood pressure lowers when he/she enters the hospital grounds.” Designer’s attempted to achieve this request through landscaping a forest-like setting, abundant with local and scented plants. The hospital’s grounds are no doubt tranquil and a place of recovery for patients, visitors, and community residents. A study of the hospital’s patients also revealed the garden’s act as a distraction from pain and promote a mental state of recovery for patients. Though, the verdict remains out on the location’s blood pressure-lowering properties. (1)
Yet, designers of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital were not incorrect in turning to flora and fauna to improve the blood pressure of patients. Even simple house plants in patient rooms have been associated with lower blood pressure readings during hospital stays. The mediating factor for this blood pressure-plant phenomena is unknown, but patients in the same study also reported less stress, anxiety, and pain with a house plant in their room. (2) Luckily, you don’t have to be in a hospital to improve your blood pressure by proximity to plantlife. Adopting a few simple practices could assist you in achieving better cardiovascular health.
Exercise In The Green
Exercise is a well-established approach to lowering blood pressure, but taking your workout outside could maximize your efforts. Research comparing exercise in different outside environments found working out in either a rural or urban space with some greenery improves mental health and lowers blood pressure. This type of exercise may also have a sustained effect on blood pressure, as activity in green spaces reduces and maintains lower stress levels throughout the working day.
Take Time Out Of The City
If you’re an urban-dweller, take opportunities to leave city limits or find designated green spaces to enjoy natural surroundings. For best cardiovascular results, the green space should be larger than 5 hectares, have mature trees, and be removed from major roadways, as this lowers noise pollution and improves air quality. Middle-aged women tend to experience more benefit from escaping city surroundings than men, but the practice is considered beneficial for anyone after a day of work. (4) If leaving your urban space is truly not possible, consider growing a garden to obtain more plant exposure and positive health effects.
Make A Greener Work Space
As patients benefit from a house plant in their hospital room, you too can benefit from a green window view or house plant in your workplace. Be sure the view or plant is in clear sight from where you work. In addition to lowering blood pressure, employees with access to greenery in their workspace experience higher work performance, more job satisfaction, less fatigue, and spent fewer days off sick. Incorporating a plant into your work area is of particular importance when your working long hours and not able to get outdoors. (5)
For those experiencing elevated blood pressure, working with your physician and associated healthcare team to lower these numbers is of the utmost importance. Additionally, non-pharmacological interventions to reduce blood pressure are of varying efficacy and may impact individuals differently. Purchasing a house plant or engaging with a greener environment may be a cost-effective and easy way to complement other approaches to reducing your blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health.