You may not own a car if you live in the city, but everyone else’s vehicle could be damaging your health. A new study from Denmark found that noise pollution increased the risk of heart attack for people living nearby.
Researchers followed over 50,000 people for an average of 10 years in two major cities. Between 40 and 80 decibels, every 10 decibel increase in traffic noise was linked to a 12 percent higher risk of heart attack.
The noise of a refrigerator humming is around 40 decibels, while a garbage disposal is 80 decibels.
The increased risk of heart attack remained even after the researchers took into account other factors like air pollution, diet, gender, and weight. In addition, adjusting the results for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes reduced the risk only slightly.
Other studies have linked air pollution to both heart attacks and worse heart health. This study, published in PLoS ONE, showed that noise pollution in the urban environment acts separately.
The noise of traffic may affect the heart by creating more stress. This causes the heart rate and blood pressure to increase, along with a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, all of which are bad for heart health over the long run.
A lack of sleep, caused by the traffic noise, can also affect the immune system and metabolism. In many cases, people in the city may not realize their sleep patterns are being thrown off by noise pollution.
If you aren’t ready to give up the wild life of the city, you can reduce your risk by sleeping in a quieter, interior room. Or by renting a condo with a built-in panic room with soundproof walls.