Heart & hearing: Noise pollution tied to higher risk of stroke, MI

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 - Angry Driver

Exposure to noise pollution has been shown to negatively impact cardiovascular health. But researchers have only recently begun to explore exactly how noise can induce chronic stress, sleep disturbance and activation of the endocrine system, which can lead to vascular alterations.

A study published online Feb. 6 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology explored the connection between noise and arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke.

“The present review focuses on novel translational noise studies, demonstrating which underlying molecular mechanisms may lead to impaired vascular function, and recent epidemiologic evidence of noise-induced CVD,” wrote the researchers, led by Thomas Münzel, MD, with Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. “We also address the nonauditory effects of noise and their impact on the cardiovascular system.”

Reviewing previous studies, the researchers found that a 5-decibel rise in traffic noise was associated with a 1.034 odds ratio for prevalent hypertension. Additionally, indoor noise seems to have a greater impact on risk of hypertension than outdoor noise, according to the researchers.

Road traffic was directly tied to increased heart rate, atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness. The authors noted a need for larger studies to explore the effects of noise pollution and coronary heart disease and stroke.

The authors also offered ways of combating noise pollution.

“High exposure to transportation noise is frequent in modern societies, with more than 30 percent of the European population being exposed to residential day-evening-night equivalent noise above 55 decibels,” wrote Münzel et al. “This leads to a considerable increase in incidence and mortality of major CVD, and therefore development of mitigation strategies is highly important.”

The European Commission, cited by the authors, encourages construction of noise barriers, brake blocks for trains, improved insulation in buildings and roads designed to minimize noise.

The full study is available for free.