We all know that our diet and exercise habits can affect our risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s common knowledge that factors like weight, family history and habits like smoking can lead to an increased risk of a heart attack. But what if we told you that the noise level of your environment might also pose a threat?
A series of European research groups have found that environmental noise can have a serious impact on cardiovascular risk. Disruptive sounds like road traffic, emergency sirens, airplanes and trains can raise stress levels, increase blood pressure and cause harmful repeated sleep interruptions for city dwellers. Even if you think you are accustomed to hearing the noise, it may still be causing problems for your heart.
According to the 2015 European State and Outlook Environment report, an estimated 10,000 deaths to date have been caused by heart attacks and strokes where noise was a contributing factor. Those living near busy streets, railroads and airports appeared to have the greatest risk.
Here’s the good news: The degree of heart attack risk posed by disruptive noise is considered “modest” compared with traditional health factors like obesity, smoking and diabetes. Unfortunately, a noisy environment combined with traditional risk factors can lead to even greater danger.
What can you do to combat noise pollution? Assuming that moving somewhere quieter isn’t an option, here are a few suggestions:
- Wear earplugs. If you know you’re going to be exposed to loud noise—for instance, while mowing the lawn—consider wearing earplugs to protect your body from the negative impact. You can also wear earplugs at night to promote a more restful sleep.
- Practice yoga or meditation. Since much of the danger of excess noise is tied to its impact on stress levels, practicing a quiet and stress-relieving activity like yoga or meditation may help.
There are many other proven ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, so don’t put your city apartment on the market and move to the country just yet. More research is needed to draw definitive conclusions on the health risks of noise. In the meantime, focus on eating well and exercising regularly—and don’t be afraid to embrace the quiet every now and then.
Noise isn’t the only factor that can impact a good night’s sleep. Download our free guide to a better night’s sleep to learn more.