If you’ve ever been near an airport, then you know how noisy it can be. Every few minutes, planes are either landing or taking off, engines whirring loudly. This noise, it turns out, could contribute to the risk for cardiovascular disease in the people who live close by, two new studies found.

Both studies looked at how proximity to an airport contributes to risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. One study compared noise levels to hospital visits and mortality for people who lived near London’s Heathrow Airport, while the other one looked at the same information among residents near 89 U.S. airports. Both studies found that people living closer to the noise had an increased risk for cardiovascular-related hospital visits and mortality, with the two percent of people who were most exposed to noise during the day and night having the highest risk.

“Whenever you have noise, it increases the stress in your body and it raises stuff like cortisol,” Dr. David Agus, professor of medicine at University of Southern California, told CBS. “We knew it was linked to high blood pressure, now we show it’s actually linked to heart disease and in one of the studies, death.”

Heart Disease and Airport Proximity 

Researchers who analyzed data for 3.6 million residents living near Heathrow Airport between 2001 and 2005 found that risks were 10 to 20 percent higher among those living closer to airplane noise. Similar results emerged for the researchers who looked at airplane noise-related illness in the U.S. Those researchers found that out of six million people, ages 65 and over, those who lived in areas with 10-decibel higher airplane noise were 3.5 percent more likely to visit the hospital for cardiovascular issues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as one in four Americans dies of heart-related illnesses every year. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women, although it kills men more often.  

The researchers accounted for a number of factors, including age, sex, ethnicity, social deprivation, smoking, air pollution, and road traffic noise. Even though the results may point to the health risks of living near an airport, they stopped short of calling it a causal link. “The exact role that noise exposure may play in ill health is not well established,” lead author Anna Hansell, of Imperial College London, told Reuters.

Risk Could Be Higher With Exposure To Any Prolonged Noise 

Noise pollution, as a whole, may increase risk of cardiovascular disease. In 2012, a study found that those who live near traffic noise at 40 decibels were at an increased risk for heart attack, with their risk increasing by 12 percent for every additional 10 decibels.

“When you go to your doctor, they used to test your cholesterol as a risk for heart disease and ask you your weight and what you ate. Now they’re going to say, ‘where do you live?’ And if they don’t say it, I want patients to go to their doctor and say, ‘listen, I live in a very stressful environment’ and the doctor needs to take that into account when they look at preventative measures,” Dr. Agus told CBS. “It’s very important we look at the patient as a whole.”

 

Sources: Hansell A, Blangiardo M, Fortunato L, et al. Aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease near Heathrow airport in London: small area study. BMJ. 2013.

Correia A, Peters J, Levy J, et al. Residential exposure to aircraft noise and hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases: multi-airport retrospective study. BMJ. 2013.