Noise can kill. New research shows that loud sounds increase the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke.
A study published in the European Heart Journal found that long-term exposure to high levels of noise dramatically boosts heart risk. Men exposed to prolonged noise were found to have a whopping 50 percent higher risk of having a heart attack. Women were found to have an even greater risk, almost 300 percent.
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“The higher and longer exposure to noise, either environmental or workplace noise, the higher risk for heart attack,” says lead researcher Dr. Stefan Willich. Chronic noise is responsible for about 3 percent of coronary heart disease, according to research by the World Health Organization in the UK.
The one place where someone should not be at risk is a hospital. But a shocking study of noise levels on hospital wards found that noise during shift changes – from clattering carts, loud voices, and other sources – can reach 113 decibels. A typical motorcycle emits 95 decibels.
Such noisiness causes patients to lose sleep, have higher blood pressure, and be more susceptible to strokes, experts say.
Experts believe that noise is deadly because it raises the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline in the body. High stress hormone levels have been linked to heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure, and immune problems.
“It has been well documented that high levels of cortisol for long periods increases many health problems,” notes Dr. Marcelle Pick, best-selling author of Is it Me or My Hormones?
Stephen Sinatra, M.D., a renowned cardiologist, says that noise can be the triggering event to a heart attack. “Excessive noise can stimulate the nervous system, which raises heart rate and blood pressure response, thus putting additional strain on the cardiovascular system. If it’s previously vulnerable, a cardiac event could occur.”
Dr. Sinatra notes that too much noise can cause sleep deprivation, another documented cause of heart attacks.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Jack Singer tells Newsmax Health that aside from the physiological effects of prolonged noise exposure, there’s mental damage.
“The psychological strain experienced by people exposed to constant noise includes distraction, lack of focus, and a slowdown of mental processes.”
Conversely, spending time in silence can help heal the mind and body, doctors say. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself against noise and harness the healing power of silence:
Use ear protection, the most obvious way to avoid noise. Use ear plugs whenever possible in noisy situations, especially when trying to rest. Airplanes, hospitals, fitness clubs, and sporting events are typical noise hotspots and good places to use noise-cancelling headphones or other ear protection devices.
Keep the volume as low as possible on your cellphone and music headphones. Keep it as low as you need to hear clearly.
Meditate. Find a quiet time for a few minutes every day to close your eyes and focus on breathing. Meditation has been proven to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Avoid noise hotspots. Instead of taking a walk near traffic, stroll in a quiet park. Instead of dining in a noisy restaurant, choose a calm setting.
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The complete version of this article first appeared in Health Radar. To read more, click here.
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