Traffic noise linked to risk of stroke

24 June 2015        

Air pollution on motorway

Living in an area with noisy road traffic may reduce life expectancy, according to new research published in the European Heart Journal.

Evidence has proven that air pollution can make existing heart conditions worse and can cause heart attacks and strokes amongst the most vulnerable in our society.

Now research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has shown that the noise from traffic is also linked to higher numbers of deaths and a greater risk of stroke, particularly in the elderly.

The researchers, led by Dr Jaana Halonen, looked at 8.6 million Londoners over 7 years and levels of road traffic noise across different postcodes, comparing this to deaths and hospital admissions in each area. They found a small increase in number of deaths and stokes in areas with higher road traffic noise; this could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress as a result of the noise.

Our Associate Medical Director, Jeremy Pearson, said:

“This carefully conducted study shows that there is a detectable, but very small, excess risk of cardiovascular death amongst people chronically exposed to greater levels of traffic noise.  The investigators tried to take account of other related factors, in particular traffic-generated air pollution, which is already known to significantly increase risk. 

The research says that deaths were 4% more common among adults and the elderly in areas with daytime road traffic noise of more than 60dB compared to areas with less than 55dB, but these numbers were actually not statistically more than 0%, therefore the results suggest that reducing air pollution from traffic is more important for heart health than reducing noise.”

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Earlier this year, BHF-funded researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that recent exposure to air pollution increases the risk of hospitalisation or death from stroke. This could influence public health measures to reduce air pollution levels, which may lead to significant health benefits.

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