Noise pollution can be one of the reasons leading to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in people, a new study has revealed. 

A study published in the British Medical Journal has established the association of long-term exposure to aircraft noise, particularly during night, with an increased incidence of hypertension and also cardiovascular effects. 

This has given healthcare practitioners back home good reason to gear up for the challenges this new risk factor poses to disease prevention and management.

Talking about the study, Padma Shri Prof Upendra Kaul, chairman, Batra Heart Centre and Dean Academics and Research, Batra Hospital and Medical Research Center, New Delhi, said, “With the country already reeling under the burden of cardiovascular diseases, the study, highlighting sound pollution as a potential risk factor, has certainly made the situation even more challenging. It’s important that while assessing the potential risk factors like obesity, physical activity, smoking and alcohol, now we also take levels of noise pollution into consideration and formulate the treatment modality accordingly.” 

Noise pollution in Delhi is already under the scanner for being way above permissible levels. 

Apart from such occasional rise in noise pollution, metropolitan cities usually have a higher level of noise due to heavy traffic and a large number of automobiles. According to a PubMed study, published in 2016, equivalent sound pressure levels for 24 hours can reach up to 75-80dB along heavily travelled roads. 

The study also states that road traffic noise exposure is also associated with incidences of disturbed sleep, headache, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. 

It is to note here that to prevent adverse health effects from noise at night, WHO recommends less than 40dB of annual average outside of bedrooms.

Focusing on pregnant women, Dr Sushila Kataria, Director, Department of Internal Medicine, Medanta Hospital, said, “Women who work in factories or near higher levels of sound during pregnancy, risk their chances of a healthy delivery. The unpleasant noise can cause hypertension and high blood pressure which can cause frequent labour pains and pre-mature birth. A pregnant woman is exposed to these dangers if she is travelling a lot as traffic and public spaces are generally noisier.”

Reflecting on the use of headphones and the culture of loud music, Dr Kaul said, “The kind of noise that irritates you will cause you hypertension, not the noise that you are exposing yourself to willingly. Nonetheless, sound over prescribed decibels is capable of damaging your ear drums. Therefore, prolonged exposure to noise should be avoided.” 

Dr Kataria said, “We need behavioural changes. People should understand that during heavy traffic hours, honking is not going to clear the roads, it only adds to avoidable noise pollution.” CVD is the leading cause of annual deaths in the country. 

According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, India surpassed the death rate of the global average of 235 per 100,000 populations. The study states that in 2010, around 37 million people lost their lives to CVD, which is a staggering 59% rise in CVD deaths compared to 1990.

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