Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women around the globe. Over 600 thousand Americans will die from heart disease each year. According to new research published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, people who are exposed to loud noises at work, roughly a quarter of U.S. workers, are at greater risk for developing heart disease. The study, conducted by researchers at the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) adds to growing concerns that the health impacts of noise pollution go further than simply hearing loss.
According to NIOSH director, Dr. John Howard, M.D., “reducing workplace noise levels is critical not just for hearing loss prevention, it may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol. Work site health and wellness programs that include screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol should also target noise-exposed workers."
A Noisy Workplace Affects Heart Health
One of the most common hazards in the workplace, around 22 million American workers are affected by noise pollution each year. Researchers from NIOSH analyzed 2014 data from the National Health Interview Survey in order to estimate the prevalence of occupational noise, hearing loss and heart conditions on American workers. The researchers discovered that high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, two key risk factors for heart disease, were found to be more common in workers who are consistently exposed to loud noises in the workplace, such as workers in construction, mining and manufacturing industries.
“A significant percentage of the workers we studied have hearing difficulty, high blood pressure and high cholesterol that could be attributed to noise at work,” according to the co-author of the study, Liz Masterson, Ph.D. “This study provides further evidence of an association of occupational noise exposure with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the potential to prevent these conditions if noise is reduced.”
Linking Noise Pollution to Health Problems
The team’s research echoes other findings that have connected noise levels to heart health. For example, high-decibel noise pollution from road traffic and airplanes has previously been linked to coronary disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Another study that was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology similarly linked noise pollution to cardiovascular health.
While the linking mechanism is not entirely known, studies have proposed that the detrimental effects on the heart are due to how loud noises trigger chronic stress reactions within our bodies. High noise levels activate the autonomic nervous system and increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Increased circulation of cortisol is believed to cause oxidative stress and vascular inflammation that leads to high blood pressure, altered heart rate and changes in blood sugar.
Three Tips for a Healthy Heart
The easiest way to treat and prevent heart disease is by decreasing the most obvious risk factors, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You may not be able to change your workplace conditions, but by eating the right foods and nutrients, getting enough exercise and keeping your stress under wraps, you can still keep your ticker in top shape. Here are a few other lifestyle changes you can make to ensure a healthy heart.
Make Sleep a Top Priority
Sleep is essential to heart health. Adequate sleep is critical to the body's ability to repair and regenerate. Research suggests that people who sleep fewer than six hours a night are twice as likely to encounter a stroke or heart attack as those who regularly sleep from six to eight hours.
Consume Enough of the Good Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids, found abundantly in foods like salmon, cod liver oil, and walnuts, are extremely beneficial to heart health. They haveve been proven to lower triglyceride (the bad fat) levels, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and improve the health of blood vessels.
Be Sure That You're Getting the Right Micronutrients
Studies have indicated that the addition of micronutrient supplements to the diet could repair cell damage and prevent the risk of stroke and heart disease.
- Vitamin E prevents the oxidative degradation of polyunsaturated fatty acid in cell membranes. Antioxidants like vitamin E repair and prevent cellular damage that is caused by stress.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that improves blood pressure and endothelial function. Vitamin C may even boost blood vessel constriction just as well as a daily walk.
- Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 are known to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Magnesium and Potassium have both been shown in studies to reduce blood pressure, improve overall heart function and decrease the risk of heart disease.
- Coenzyme Q10, sometimes referred to as ubiquinone, is essential to the powering the heart. Coenzyme Q10 reduces oxidative stress on cells, increases the enzyme activity of antioxidants and has been shown to relieve symptoms in those suffering from cardiovascular disease.