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Irritating Noise Increases Risk Of Heart Attacks

A study conducted by German researchers has found that besides being really harsh on the ears, high-level noise can be bad for the heart as well. Writing in the latest issue of the European Heart Journal // , the researchers stress that increased decibel levels could mean an increased risk of heart attack.

Researchers from Charité University Medical Centre in Berlin, Germany conducted their study between 1998 and 2001 in 32 hospitals in Berlin. They compared 2,000 patients who suffered heart attacks during the period with a control group having a similar number. The study, called the NaRoMI (Noise and Risk of Myocardial Infarction) study, was carried out with the intention to find the link if any between chronic noise and the risk of heart attacks. Our results demonstrate that chronic noise exposure is associated with a mildly to moderately increased risk of heart attack. 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,' said lead author of the study, Dr Stefan Willich, who is the Director of the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics at the medical centre.

The researchers say that the noise levels cease to be a mere irritant and affect the physiological functioning of the heart. The din of the traffic affected both men and women and increased the risk of heart attack by nearly 50 percent in men and three times in women. Workplace noise affected men by a third, while it had no significant difference in women. Currently, 85 decibels is the allowed noise limit in most of European workplaces, but researchers are calling for this to be decreased to 60-65 decibels, "We seem to be looking at a threshold at which risk occurs and remains constant above this, and this appears to be around 60 decibels,' said Dr Willich.

Margaret Willson
European Society of Cardiology


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