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Stroke risk linked to traffic noise and pollution

Living in an area with high traffic noise has been linked to a greater risk of stroke, particularly for the elderly, research suggests.

There was an increase in the number of deaths and strokes in areas of London with high traffic noise, which could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress as a result of the noise.

Over seven years the researchers looked at 8.6 million Londoners and the levels of road traffic noise across different postcodes, comparing this to deaths and hospital admissions in each area.

Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The research says that deaths were 4% more common among adults and the elderly in areas with daytime road traffic noise of more than 60dB [decibel] compared to areas with less than 55dB.

“This carefully conducted study shows that there is a detectable, but very small, excess risk of cardiovascular death amongst people chronically exposed to greater levels of traffic noise. The investigators tried to take account of other related factors, in particular traffic-generated air pollution, which is already known to significantly increase risk,” he said.

However Pearson said that the results suggest that reducing air pollution from traffic is more important for heart health than reducing noise.