Exposure to environmental noises might increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, a preliminary study has shown.
Noises can fuel the activity of a brain region involved in stress response and in turn promote blood vessel inflammation, according to the study presented at the ongoing American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.
The findings found that people with the highest levels of chronic noise exposure, such as highway and airport noise, had an increased risk of suffering cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes.
“A growing body of research reveals an association between ambient noise and cardiovascular disease, but the physiological mechanisms behind it have remained unclear,” said Azar Radfar, the study author.
“We believe our findings offer an important insight into the biology behind this phenomenon.”
Researchers analysed the links between noise exposure and major cardiovascular events among 499 healthy people (average age 56 years).
People with the highest levels of noise exposure had higher levels of amygdala activity and more inflammation in their arteries.
They also had a greater than three-fold risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke and other major cardiovascular events, compared with people who had lower levels of noise exposure, according to the study.
That risk remained elevated even after the researchers accounted for other cardiovascular and environmental risk factors, including air pollution, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes.
Additional analysis revealed that high levels of amygdala activity appear to unleash a pathway that fueled cardiac risk by driving blood vessel inflammation, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
“Patients and their physicians should consider chronic noise exposure when assessing cardiovascular risk and may wish to take steps to minimise or mitigate such chronic exposure,’’ Radfar said.