How noise pollution may harm the heart

Research we're watching

Published: March, 2020

Long-term exposure to traffic noise has been linked to a greater risk of heart disease. New research reveals additional clues about this connection.

Researchers studied nearly 500 adults over a five-year period and gathered traffic and aircraft noise data for each person's home address. After adjusting for other factors that contribute to cardiovascular risk (including air pollution), they found that every 5-decibel increase in the average 24-hour noise level was associated with a 34% increase in heart attacks, strokes, and other serious heart-related problems.

By using a specialized brain imaging technique, researchers showed that higher levels of noise exposure were associated with increased activity in the amygdala, the area of the brain involved in processing stress, anxiety, and fear. Excess noise also increased inflammation in the arteries, a known trigger for cardiovascular problems. The findings were published Nov. 26, 2019, in the European Heart Journal.

People prone to heart disease should be aware that chronic noise exposure where they live may raise their risk, according to the study's lead author.

Image: burwellphotography/Getty Images

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