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Listen To The Heart: The Effects Of Noise Pollution

April 7, 2020
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Imagine it’s late at night, quiet everywhere. All of a sudden there’s a siren blaring! What would you do? You would probably jump up in a panic. 

 

Now, what if that happened not just once at night but several times throughout your week or even day? Maybe at 2 PM on Monday there is a loud honking, 6 AM on Wednesday there is an ambulance siren, and 4 AM on Saturday morning there is a helicopter going right over your building. 

 

You may start to get used to it but see it as annoying. Yet, would you be aware of the health concerns behind it? Would you be aware of what that sound is doing to your heart?

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These noises happen every single day. Sometimes we get startled and at other times they are just background noise, but they could be more than just an irritant. In fact, these noises can actually be harmful as they could strain our hearts.

 

The AARP notes from a recently published review paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that noise pollution may increase the risk of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, and heart failure. This is often caused by either the disruption in sleep or from a response to stress, which releases a rush of hormones.

 

While this requires further study to understand the exact science behind it and the cause and effect that noise pollution has, it should be noted that at a minimum, loud noises are a risk factor for heart disease. When one is not expecting these loud noises, they can trigger stress causing a surge of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. This can cause your arteries to constrict and raise your blood pressure or make your blood more likely to clot.

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Additionally, Harvard Health cites another study that studied approximately 500 adults over a five-year period by gathering traffic and aircraft noise data for each person’s home address. In this study, it was found that after adjusting for other factors that contribute to cardiovascular risk (including air pollution), 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.

 

It is quite astonishing how much noise pollution can affect us. What may seem like just a small irritant can really be the cause of a serious heart issue later on. So be careful and think about putting on some white noise, using some noise canceling earbuds, or sleeping in a soundproof room. Your heart will thank you later.

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