According to authors, traffic noise and air pollution are two of the most common environmental stressors worldwide. In all corners of the world, children and adults are exposed to poor air quality and loud noise on a daily basis, which can put stress on the body over time. Many studies have linked these factors to increased risk for heart disease—the leading cause of death worldwide. However, it’s unclear how factors like air and noise pollution affect cardiovascular risk.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from two large studies conducted in Norway and the Netherlands. Together, these studies included more than 144,000 adults, all of which completed questionnaires and medical exams between 2006 and 2013. The average age of participants was 48; more than half were women.
Using blood samples, researchers were able to assess key factors related to heart health, including cholesterol, inflammation and blood sugar. Researchers also used address to estimate participants’ average exposure to air pollution and traffic noise.
After analysis, researchers found that higher daytime noise was associated with significantly higher cholesterol and greater markers of inflammation. Increased exposure to air pollution was also associated with higher triglycerides—a type of fat in the blood associated with heart disease.
Authors also note that traffic noise and air pollution were associated with significantly higher blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is often a warning sign for diabetes and is associated with increased risk for heart disease.
According to authors, this is one of the first studies to provide concrete evidence on the link between environmental stressors and cardiovascular risk. Findings suggest that environmental stressors like air and noise pollution trigger conditions like inflammation and elevated cholesterol, which may in turn increase heart risks.
Authors note that the study only assessed participants’ health at a single point in time, so it doesn’t prove that environmental stressors directly cause increased heart risks. However, findings highlight the importance of considering additional factors like our environment when addressing the prevention of heart disease.