Heart attack risk tied to traffic noise

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PHOENIX -- Living near a noisy street or freeway can be irritating, but that could be the least of your worries. A new study says the louder the traffic the greater risk of a heart attack.

“Number one killer, I think by far and away ahead of breast cancer,” said Dr. Ashish Pershad, interventional cardiologist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.

Pershad is talking about heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. He said a few traditional risk factors include cholesterol, smoking and diabetes. But according to a new study from Denmark, traffic noise near your home may be added to the list.

Researchers tracked more than 50,000 participants over 10 years. They found that for every 10-decibel increase of noise, the risk of a heart attack went up by 12 percent.
“It doesn't mean that if you live in an excessively noisy environment that you are guaranteed to have a higher risk, all it's saying is your risks appear to be higher,” Pershad said.

While the exact reasons for the link are not known, some culprits in the study included increased levels of stress to sleep being interrupted.

“We do know if you get alarmed, your blood pressure shoots up and you tend to get more adrenaline bursts and having all of that in your system can definitely stress the heart,” Pershad said.

But this is just one study. So before you start packing up the house, there are some simpler steps you can take.
“Losing weight, exercising, managing your diabetes, managing your blood pressure are all common-sense things I would recommend before doing something as drastic as moving,” Pershad said.

The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.