Millions of people are being treated for high blood pressure and experts estimate that several million people have not yet been diagnosed. Although the various risk factors have been well identified, the effect of environmental factors remains untapped. A recent study suggests, among other things, an effect from planes noise.
Causes of hypertension
Hypertension is one of the most serious cardiovascular risk factors. In the vast majority of cases, no reason is found to explain the high blood pressure. In 5% of the cases, for example, it is the result of another disorder like:
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Adrenal disease or dysfunction of the adrenal glands, etc.
If the cause is unknown, some factors have been shown to exacerbate high blood pressure, like:
- Overweight and obesity
- Sedentary life
- Alcohol consumption
- Excessive salt intake
- The use of certain drugs (estrogens, nasal vasoconstrictors, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids), etc.
Loud noises under scrutiny
In this context, a recent study suggests that environmental factors may increase the risk of developing hypertension. This study was carried out on 420 people living in the vicinity of the Athens Airport (Greece), where more than 600 aircraft take off and land daily.
The results show that exposure to loud noises at night significantly increases the risk of hypertension. For example, the risk of hypertension is multiplied by a factor of 2.6 for every 10 decibels. This night-time exposure to noise also significantly increases the risk of certain cardiac dysrhythmias (risk multiplied by 2,1). An insignificant increase in the number of strokes was also observed.
Prolonged exposure to aircraft noises, especially at night, increases the risk of high blood pressure and cardiac dysrhythmia. Larger studies are now needed to confirm these disturbing results and to better assess the effect on stroke risk.
Health effects of aircraft noise
Aircraft noise nuisance is strongly opposed by residents that live near airports, but there is a lack of scientific data to substantiate their complaints. In order to gain a better understanding of its impact on health, the world’s largest epidemiological study on this subject was launched at three French airports in 2017:
The DEBATS study will take into account not only the noise exposure of local residents but also their state of health. It will be divided into two parts:
- An ecological study to link health data to an average level of noise exposure
An individual study with 1200 people to assess:
- The relation between exposure to noise and health status (sleep disorders, cardiovascular problems, anxiety disorders and more)
- The effects of exposure to noise pollution on different physiological parameters (blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels)
The results of this study are eagerly awaited by those who live near airports which could push the authorities to take the necessary measures to reduce the noise nuisance caused by aircraft and thus protect the health of the people living in these areas.