Noise May Raise Blood Pressure Risk

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Airport noise could raise the risk for high blood pressure, a new study suggests.

Greek researchers studied 420 people living near Athens International Airport, where an average of 600 airplanes take off and land every day. Maps made during construction of the airport divided the surrounding area by noise level: less than 50 decibels, 50 to 60 decibels (60 decibels is about the noise level of a room air-conditioner), and more than 60 decibels, so researchers could track noise exposure precisely.

About two-thirds of the residents lived in the areas that regularly experienced noise at the 50- to 60-decibel level, and almost half of them had high blood pressure when the study began. Over the next 10 years, there were 71 newly diagnosed cases of hypertension.

The study, in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that for each 10-decibel increase in noise at night, the risk of developing hypertension more than doubled. Cardiac arrhythmia was also associated with nighttime exposure.

There was no significant link to stroke, diabetes or how annoyed someone felt about the noise. The researchers controlled for age, sex, body mass index, smoking, exercise and other factors that affect blood pressure.

The lead author, Klea Katsouyanni, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Athens, said that this is one of the first studies showing that outdoor noise may be bad for cardiovascular health.