Sunday, April 02, 2006

Noise linked to heart attacks

Living or working in noisy surroundings may raise a person's risk of heart attack, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Germany found that urban middle-aged adults who lived near high-traffic roads were 46 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those who lived in more peaceful neighbourhoods.

Similarly, men whose jobs exposed them to high noise levels were one-third more likely to have a heart attack than their peers in quieter workplaces.

To the body, loud noise acts as a "warning," and the normal stress response involves hormonal changes and a spike in blood pressure and heart rate. Researchers suspect that over time, chronic noise exposure may damage the cardiovascular system. A certain threshold -- about 60 decibels of street noise -- was important, the researchers report. Beyond that threshold, higher noise levels didn't worsen heart attack risk. And, annoyance from noise was less important than the noise itself, the study shows.

See the Noise Levels in Our Environment page for a list of common sounds and their associated decibel levels.

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