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Traffic noise hurts

September 9, 2009 |  4:00 pm

Traffic The rumbling of cars, trucks and trains isn't just annoying, it can raise your blood pressure. A study appearing today in the journal Environmental Health found that people exposed to high levels of noise from roads near their homes are more likely to report suffering from chronic hypertension.

"Road traffic is the most important source of community noise," said the lead author of the study, Theo Bodin, from Lund University Hospital, Sweden, in a news release. "We found that exposure above 60 decibels was associated with high blood pressure among the relatively young and middle-aged, an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke."

The researchers surveyed more than 24,000 adults living in Sweden. Based on the participants' home addresses, information was obtained about average road noise at their homes. The study found a modest link between hypertension and average traffic noise between 45 and 65 decibels. But the link grew stronger with higher levels of noise. The risk of hypertension was highest in relatively young or middle-aged people, whereas no effects were seen in the oldest age group.

Many urban dwellers experience traffic noise levels of 55 decibels or more, the authors note. And those numbers are growing.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times