Intrusive noise such as aircraft, traffic, or a snoring partner, causes blood pressure to rise even as we sleep, new research has shown.
Scientists made the discovery after monitoring 140 sleeping volunteers at their homes near Heathrow and three other major European airports.
They found that participants’ blood pressure went up noticeably after a ‘noise event’ – a sound louder than 35 decibels.
Airplanes, traffic and snoring
Typical causes were passenger jets flying overhead, traffic passing outside, or snoring.
Aircraft noise produced an average increase in systolic ‘heartbeat’ blood pressure of 6.2 millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
Diastolic pressure, the pressure between beats, was raised by 7.4 mmHg. Similar blood pressure rises were triggered by other noise sources such as traffic.
Blood pressure went up in direct relation to noise loudness, said the researchers, writing in the European Heart Journal.
For every five decibel increase in aircraft noise at its loudest point there was a 0.66 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure.
The type of sound, or its origin, did not appear to be important. It was volume that mattered.
Dr Lars Jarup, one of the study authors from Imperial College London said: ‘We know that noise from air traffic can be a source of irritation, but our research shows that it can also be damaging for people’s health, which is particularly significant in light of plans to expand international airports.
‘Our studies show that night-time aircraft noise can affect your blood pressure instantly and increase the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).’
He said it is ‘clear’ that new measures need to be taken to reduce noise levels from overhead aircraft, especially at night.
The new research followed recent findings by the same scientists which associated high blood pressure with living near an airport or under a flight path.
Residents who lived in one of these locations for at least five years were far more at risk of developing high blood pressure than those with quieter surroundings.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspective, showed that an increase in night-time aircraft noise of ten decibels raised the risk of high blood pressure by 14% in both men and women.
High blood pressure, defined as a reading of 140/90 mmHg or more, is a known risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.
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