Does Road Traffic Noise Cause High Blood Pressure?

Exposure to road traffic noise may elevate the risk of developing hypertension, according to a study published March 22 in JACC: Advances.

Jing Huang, PhD, et al., conducted a prospective study using UK Biobank data from more than 240,000 people (aged 40 to 69 years) without hypertension at baseline. Using follow-up data over a median 8.1 years, they looked at how many people developed hypertension. They estimated road traffic noise based on the residential address and the Common Noise Assessment Method, a European modeling tool.

Results showed that people living near road traffic noise were more likely to develop hypertension, and that risk increased in tandem with the noise “dose.” These associations held true even when researchers adjusted for exposure to fine particles and nitrogen dioxide. However, people who had high exposure to both traffic noise and air pollution had the highest hypertension risk, showing that air pollution may play a role as well.

“We were a little surprised that the association between road traffic noise and hypertension was robust even after adjustment for air pollution,” said Jing Huang, PhD, lead author of the study. “Road traffic noise and traffic-related air pollution coexist around us … It is essential to explore the independent effects of road traffic noise, rather than the total environment.”

Moving forward, the authors suggest that policymaking may alleviate the adverse impacts of road traffic noise as a societal effort, such as setting stricter noise guideline and enforcement, improving road conditions and urban design, and investing advanced technology on quieter vehicles.

In an accompanying editorial comment, Jiandong Zhang, MD, and Brian Patrick Kelley, MD, agree that the study “provides a higher quality of evidence to justify the potential to modify road traffic noise and air pollution from both individual and societal levels in improving cardiovascular health.”

As a follow-up, Huang said field studies are underway to better understand the pathophysiological mechanisms through which road noise affects hypertension.

Clinical Topics: Prevention, Hypertension

Keywords: Hypertension, Biological Specimen Banks, Follow-Up Studies, Prospective Studies, Noise, Transportation, Nitrogen Dioxide

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