Noise leads to heart attacks

Constant exposure to loud noise may lead to a heart attack, says a team led by Stefan Willich of the Charit Medical Centre in Berlin. According to the research, living or having a job in a noisy environment raises the risk of suffering a heart attack by around 50%. The scientists made the discovery after quizzing heart-attack patients in Berlin hospitals. They then looked at 'noise maps' and data from workplaces to quantify how noisy the patients' lives were.

The effect does not seem simply to be down to annoyance at constant or frequent loud noise, the researchers add. When patients were asked to rate how annoyed they are by noise in their surroundings, the heart patients were not generally more likely than other patients to report being aggravated. Another possible explanation might be that poorer people may live and work in noisier environments, and may also have a less healthy lifestyle or worse access to health care. But Willich says his team controlled for this effect by looking at the patients' education. He doesn't think it is simply a matter of the less wealthy being hit by heart problems, Nature reports.

Participants were asked about the noises, their sources, and how vexing the sounds had been. The researchers also considered traffic around the patients' homes and calculated how much noise they had been exposed to at work over a 10-year period.

For women, environmental noises were a health hazard. Those who reported annoying environmental noises were 50 percent more likely to have had a heart attack than those who didn't report them.

Men weren't affected by environmental noises, but noisy workplaces made them 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack. Workplace noise didn't seem to bother a woman's heart, according to

Studies have suggested chronic noise exposure causes stress, which leads to increases in blood pressure and changes in cholesterol. These changes can contribute to the development of heart disease, says. I.L.

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