Workplace Noise Contributes to Heart Health Risk

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Workers who spend their time around loud noise at work, such as in factories, construction sites and other industrial facilities, are at a greater risk of developing serious heart disease, according to a new survey published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Younger Men Found to Have Greatest Cardiovascular Risk

Researchers from the School of Environmental Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver examined data from more than 6,000 employees, aged 20 and older, who were surveyed about lifestyle, occupation and health for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2004. About 21% of workers, mostly men, had endured noisy workplaces for at least three months. These workers were two to three times more likely to have heart disease than those in more peaceful conditions.

Read: 10 Symptoms of Workplace Stress

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Those workers were also more likely to weigh more, have high diastolic blood pressure (also known as isolated diastolic hypertension), and smoke, according to lead researcher Dr. Wen Qi Gan. The employees did not have high cholesterol or increased levels of inflammatory proteins, he noted, both of which are additional risk factors for heart disease.

Prolonged exposure to noise exerts the same kind of stress on the body as strong emotion or physical exertion, say the authors. Chemicals triggered in response to stress constrict blood flow through the arteries. Occupational factors not taken into account, but which could also affect heart disease risk, include shift work and air pollution.

Read: Working Long Hours Increases Risk of Heart Attack

In the United States, more than 22 million workers are exposed to excessive noise on the job, which is not only associated with cardiovascular risk, but also with hearing loss, sleep disturbances and psychological stress. “Noise control is critical to prevent these noise-related diseases,” said Dr. Gan. If you work in a noisy environment, he suggests using ear plugs or a protective head set to protect both heart and hearing.

Source reference:
Gan W, et al "Exposure to occupational noise and cardiovascular disease in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survery 1999-2004" Occup Environ Med 2010; DOI:10.1136/oem.2010.055269.

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