We all know that peace and quiet is good for your soul, but according to two new studies, it can also be good for your heart. Whether it's the roar of a jet engine, the rumble of a highway, or the screaming siren of an emergency vehicle, it turns out that loud noises can have a noticeable effect on your cardiovascular health. While research has not proved that loud noises cause heart disease, noise pollution may increase the risk of coronary artery disease, hypertension, and heart failure among other conditions.
According to a new study from Nottingham Trent University, noisy street sounds can disturb cardiac rhythms and possibly create cardiovascular problems. In the study, a group of shoppers were asked to wear mobile body sensors as they moved about Nottingham city centre for 45 minutes. The sensors were used to monitor the participants' heart rates, which were found to fluctuate wildly in relation to noise. “We found that rapid changes in noise resulted in rapid disturbance to the normal rhythm of participants’ hearts... If this pattern is repeated regularly then there is a danger it might lead to cardiovascular problems.” said Dr Eiman Kanjo, head researcher from Nottingham Trent’s School of Science and Technology.
Scientists have always known that repeated exposure to external stresses can lead to a range of physical illnesses and behavioural issues. While air pollution and crowded environments have always been known to cause stress, this 2017 study was the first to utilise sensors in an attempt to model the short-term impact of noisy city environments. According to Dr Kanjo, “Repeated human exposure to environmental pollutants such as noise, air pollution, traffic or even crowded areas can cause severe health problems ranging from headaches and sleep disturbance to heart disease... It’s important noise is considered when designing city landscapes. Most importantly, local authorities should look at the multiple environmental factors that might affect our health at street level.”
Another recent study by the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz also found links between noise pollution and heart-related diseases. Published in the journal Cardiology in 2018, researchers discovered that noise can cause a stress response in the body and release a flood of hormones that are capable of damaging the heart over time. This can lead to increased cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a high heart rate, all of which increase the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, and arrhythmia.
“Ten years ago, people were saying that noise is just annoying, but now I think there’s considerable evidence that noise makes you sick, and one of the predominate diseases is cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Thomas Münzel in an interview with the Washington Post. Long-term exposure to noise pollution has also been linked to a number of mental health conditions such as depression disorder and general anxiety disorder, along with problems related to cognitive development in young children. While it's difficult to isolate noise from particle pollution and other factors related to populated areas, both of these studies suggest that we should be paying more attention to the negative effects of noise in our everyday life.
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