Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Overhead Aircraft, Snoring and Traffic Increase Night Time Blood Pressure

The Hypertension and Exposure to Noise near Airports (HYENA) study, published in the European Heart Journal Online, February 12, 2008, shows that blood pressure spikes occur during sleep following exposure to snoring, noise from aircraft and traffic. More intense noise was found to cause even greater blood pressure elevations. Exposure to noise over an extended period has been previously implicated as a contributing factor for high blood pressure.

Identifying the role of stress on the cardiovascular system is part of a growing area of research. The World Health Organization will publish a study on aircraft noise later this year in an effort to help define stressors that affect public health.

Dr Alexandros S. Haralabidis (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece) and colleagues studied 140 volunteers living near major airports. Various noises were recorded and then correlated with blood pressure response. The blood pressure spikes were seen about fifteen minutes following noise exposure. The mean spike was 6.2mm/Hg. systolic and 7.4mm/Hg. diastolic. Noise levels were not significant enough to even wake the volunteers, but the blood pressure changes were seen acutely and long term.

Senior author on the study, Dr Lars Järup (Imperial College London, UK says "it would make sense to have more restrictions on nighttime flights, when blood-pressure responses to aircraft noise are greatest." Some of the airports in Europe have already limited their night flights.

Dr. Järup also points out that this is just one of many risks for hypertension, but “the more risk factors you can eliminate, the better, and this is one of them."

I’m encouraged by the recent trends I’ve seen regarding health research. There is advocacy toward changing the status quo that I personally feel is long overdue. I sincerely hope that public health issues can take a forefront to economy driven decisions in the future. ◦