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Study: Traffic Noise Linked To Greater Risk Of Heart Attack

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New York City traffic at night, by Flickr user paulobar

New York City traffic at night, by Flickr user paulobar

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If you live near a busy boulevard or interstate, you already know how annoying that traffic can be during your daily commute. But according to a new study cited in the New York Times, it may also be the source of a bigger pain: a heart attack.

The news comes from a group of Danish researchers who tracked the health of 57,053 people in Copenhagen and Aarhus for about 10 years. Participants began the study in middle age, between the ages of 50 and 64.

To glean their results, scientists measured the noise of traffic passing by each participant's home, and what they found was alarming, particularly for residents of urban areas: for every 10 decibels of traffic noise, there was an additional 10% risk of heart attack.

"But wait", you ask, "aren't there a lot of variables at work here -- variables like age, race, sex, education, air pollution, and even noise from railways and airports?" There are, indeed, but the 10% figure was determined after scientists controlled for other factors. 

The researchers don't fully understand the link between traffic noise and heart attacks. They suggest it might be something as straightforward as the noise's disruption of sleep patterns, which has been shown in other studies to affect heart health. 

Also of note: the team only focused on traffic noise inside homes. We'd be curious to know if increased decibels had a negative impact on drivers, too. If so, automakers might make quieter cabins more of a priority -- which would be a welcome improvement in some cases.  

Our advice? Until scientists reach real conclusions, eat your veggies, get plenty of exercise, and invest in a good pair of earplugs. 

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Comments (2)
  1. Another natural experiment, about which little, if anything, can be determined. These are uncontrolled "experiments" in which the researchers are basically trying to guess relationships and using correlational metrics to do so. Unfortunately, it should be obvious to even the most casual observer that regions that differ in level of traffic noise differ in a great many other ways - hustle bustle atmosphere, etc. This study is so primitive
    that it's a shame that someone had to pay to carry it out.
     
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  2. Can't anybody make up their mind on this traffic/car noise subject?
    First they said EV's/Hybrids are too quite and pose a threat to pedestrians. Then you read that traffic noise is linked to a greater risk of heart attacks.
    This is beginning to sound like all the other BS about one day coffee is bad for you then next week you read that coffee is good for you.
    It's no wonder more people are on some sort of mood stabilizer drug.....arrrrrrrrrgh!
     
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