Exposure to air pollution, traffic noise raises odds of heart failure

Long‐term exposure to air pollution and traffic noise is associated with an elevated risk for developing heart failure, according to new data published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“We found that long-term exposure to specific air pollutants and road traffic noise increased the risk of incident heart failure, especially for former smokers or people with hypertension, so preventive and educational measures are necessary,” said lead author Youn-Hee Lim, PhD, assistant professor in the section of environmental health within the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a prepared statement. “To minimize the impact of these exposures, broad public tactics such as emissions control measures should be implemented. Strategies like smoking cessation and blood pressure control must be encouraged to help reduce individual risk.”

Researchers examined the impact of long-term environmental exposure, explicitly from air pollution and road traffic noise, on the development of heart failure in 22,000 female nurses, 44 years of age and older, over a 15- to 20-year period. Participants were recruited in 1993 or 1999.

Data was from the Danish Nurse Cohort study.

In the analysis, exposure to small particulate matter and road traffic noise over three years was linked with an increased risk for HF.

The risks were highest among women who were former smokers or who had high blood pressure.

The researchers further found:

  • For every 5.1 µg/m3 increase in fine particulate matter exposure over three years, the risk of incident heart failure increased by 17%;
  • For every 8.6 µg/m3 increase in NO2 exposure over three years, the risk of incident heart failure increased by 10%;
  • For every 9.3 dB increase in road traffic noise exposure over three years, the risk of incident heart failure increased by 12%; and
  • Increased exposure to fine particulate matter and status as a former smoker were associated with a 72% increased risk of incident heart failure.

“We were surprised by how two environmental factorsair pollution and road traffic noiseinteracted,” Lim said in the same statement. “Air pollution was a stronger contributor to heart failure incidence compared to road traffic noise; however, the women exposed to both high levels of air pollution and road traffic noise showed the highest increase in heart failure risk. In addition, about 12% of the total study participants had hypertension at enrollment of the study. However, 30% of the nurses with heart failure incidence had a previous history of hypertension, and they were the most susceptible population to air pollution exposure.”

According to the authors, the study did have limitations. The team did not have information on individual socioeconomic status, indoor air pollution sources, the amount of time spent outdoors, or patients’ glass thickness of the windows in their home, which could affect noise pollution levels.

The authors concluded that clinicians should advise their patients about air pollution and road traffic noise and their related adverse effects on the heart.

Read the full study here.

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