Stress response may be reason for link between traffic noise and cardiovascular disease

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Thomas Munzel (Department of Internal Medicine, University Medical Center Mainz, Johannes Cutenberg University, Mainz, Germany) and others report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that traffic noise may disrupt the body on the cellular level—via a stress response—in a way that increases the risk of common risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Previous studies have already shown that traffic noise may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but there are still questions about the precise mechanisms that lead to noise-induced heart disease.

In present study, Munzel et al looked at novel translational noise studies demonstrating the molecular mechanisms that may lead to impaired vascular function, recent epidemiologic evidence of noise-induced cardiovascular disease, and the non-auditory effects of noise and their impact on the cardiovascular system.

The authors say that based on the evidence, noise may induce a stress response—characterised by activation of the sympathetic nervous system and increased levels of hormones—which will initiate sequelae and ultimately lead to vascular damage. They add that their evidence further strengthens the concept that transportation noise contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes, because noise is associated with oxidative stress, vascular dysfunction, autonomic imbalance and metabolic abnormalities.

Munzel et al also looked at some of the mitigation strategies used around the world and comment that strategies such as traffic management and regulation, the development of low-noise tires could help reduce noise, and air traffic curfews help reduce hazardous noise, but other strategies are needed. Munzel says: “As the percentage of the population exposed to detrimental levels of transportation noise are rising, new developments and legislation to reduce noise are important for public health.”

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