In a stark warning German researchers say that loud noise can increase the risk of heart attacks in elderly men and women. This risk is squarely attributed to the noise related to the workplace as well as the usual din associated with traffic.
It was found that this noise had a physiological effect on the heart. Dr. Stefan Willich, director of the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics at Charite University Medical Centre in Berlin and lead author of the study said that their study was a pointer to the fact that constant exposure to loud grating noise had a mild to moderate effect on the risk of heart attacks. "The increase appears more closely associated with actual sound levels rather than with subjective annoyance. However, there were differences between men and women and these need further investigation,' he commented.
The current study observed the effect of noise on 2,000 heart attack patients admitted in the hospital and used 2,000 patients admitted in the trauma and general surgery departments, but not for heart attack as a control group. It was found that the noise level increased the risk of heart attack by 50 percent in men and by three times in women. On the reverse side, workplace noise tripled the risk for men and had minimal or no risk for women. "We seem to be looking at a threshold at which risk occurs and remains constant above this, and this [threshold] appears to be around 60 decibels,' Willich commented. The researchers theorize in the November 24 issue of the European Heart Journal that noise could arouse anger and stress in subjects and thus activate the stress-hormone Adrenaline, which could be directly responsible for elevating the risk of a heart attack.
Experts believe that the paper has made a direct correlation between high decibels of noise and heart attacks. Says Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, an associate professor of internal and occupational medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, 'The paper provides further support for the possibility that noise, a hazard so common we tend to take it for granted, is contributing to the burden of cardiovascular disease.' He believes that taking steps to reduce environmental and workplace sounds could be beneficial to the health in the long run.