Trains, Planes, Automobiles and Heart Disease

Review looks at mechanisms that may cause traffic noise-induced harm to the cardiovascular system

Contact: Nicole Napoli,, 202-375-6523

WASHINGTON (Feb 05, 2018) -

Noise may disrupt the body on the cellular level in a way that increases the risk of common heart disease risk factors, according to a review topic published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that examined the underlying mechanisms that may lead to noise-induced heart disease. The review is in response to growing evidence connecting environmental noise, including from road traffic and aircrafts, to the development of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease, arterial hypertension, stroke and heart failure.

In the last decade, the global burden of disease has shifted from communicable disease to non-communicable disease, including heart disease. Focus is placed on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of traditional heart disease risk factors, but there is a growing body of evidence around risk factors in the physical environment that deserve further research.

Traffic noise has been shown in a number of studies to increase the risk of heart disease, but questions still remain about the precise mechanisms that lead to noise-induced heart disease. In this review topic, researchers looked at novel translational noise studies demonstrating the molecular mechanisms that may lead to impaired vascular function, recent epidemiologic evidence of noise-induced cardiovascular disease, and the non-auditory effects of noise and their impact on the cardiovascular system.

The authors said that based on the evidence, they propose that noise induces a stress response, characterized by activation of the sympathetic nervous system and increased levels of hormones, which will initiate sequelae and ultimately lead to vascular damage. Researchers said their evidence further strengthens the concept that transportation noise contributes to the development of heart disease risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes because noise is associated with oxidative stress, vascular dysfunction, autonomic imbalance and metabolic abnormalities.

Specific topics looked at were the adverse effects of environmental noise on the autonomic nervous system and consequences for the cardiovascular system, adverse cardiovascular effects of noise in humans and adverse cardiovascular effects of noise in animals.

The authors also looked at some of the mitigation strategies used around the world and said strategies like traffic management and regulation, the development of low-noise tires could help reduce noise, and air traffic curfews help reduce hazardous noise, but other strategies are needed.

Thomas Munzel, MD, lead author of the review and director of the Department of Internal Medicine at University Medical Center Mainz, Johannes Cutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, said, “as the percentage of the population exposed to detrimental levels of transportation noise are rising, new developments and legislation to reduce noise are important for public health.”

The American College of Cardiology is the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team. The mission of the College and its more than 52,000 members is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The ACC leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The College operates national registries to measure and improve care, offers cardiovascular accreditation to hospitals and institutions, provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more, visit

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology ranks among the top cardiovascular journals in the world for its scientific impact. JACC is the flagship for a family of journals—JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions, JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, JACC: Heart Failure, JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology and JACC: Basic to Translational Science—that prides themselves in publishing the top peer-reviewed research on all aspects of cardiovascular disease. Learn more at


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