THURSDAY, May 9 – Even the minor noise that fills everyday life, from the ring of a cell phone to the conversation that follows, may have short-term effects on heart function, a small new study suggests. In the study of 110 adults equipped with portable heart monitors, researchers found that people’s heart rate tended to climb as their noise exposure increased – even when the noise remained below 65 decibels. Studies have linked lesser heart rate variability to an increased risk of heart attack. For any one person, the effects of everyday noise on heart function may be small, said Charlotta Eriksson, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm, Sweden. Since we are all exposed to noise, even a minor effect on heart health could be important on the broad “Population level,” said Eriksson, who has studied the effects of loud traffic – from roads or airports – on people’s blood pressure and heart function. The value of the findings is that they suggest a biological reason for why noise has been linked to ill heart effects, said Alexandra Schneider, one of the researchers in the Institute of Epidemiology at Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, in Germany, who worked on the study. A big question, said study author Schneider, is whether the short-term effects of noise, repeated over time, ultimately affect heart health – particularly for people who already have chronic medical conditions.
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