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How noisy cities disrupt heartbeat, trigger disease, by studies

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The cacophony of noise town centres could trigger heart problems, a new study suggests, after scientists found that fluctuating sounds on busy high streets disturb normal cardiac rhythms.

Researchers from Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom (U.K.), found that constant changes in noise – even at low levels – had an immediate and disruptive effect on the patterns of participants’ normal heart rates. The team says their findings add to a growing body of research, which shows how our everyday surroundings could have wider implications for long-term health.

The research was published in the journal Information Fusion. For the study, shoppers were asked to wear mobile body sensors to monitor their heart rates as they moved about Nottingham city centre for 45 minutes.

“We found that rapid changes in noise resulted in rapid disturbance to the normal rhythm of participants’ hearts,” said researcher Dr Eiman Kanjo of Nottingham Trent’s School of Science and Technology.

“If this pattern is repeated regularly then there is a danger it might lead to cardiovascular problems.” It is known that repeated exposure to external stresses such as noise, pollution and crowded areas can lead to a range of long term physical illnesses and behavioural issues. Recent studies have found links between noise and heart related diseases. But the study is the first to use sensors to attempt to model the short-term impact that city environments can have upon the human body. The researchers, from the university’s School of Science and Technology, also found that air pressure had an effect on heart rate as well as an impact upon body temperature.

Environmental data including noise, air pressure and light levels were compared to data from participants relating to heart rate, body temperature and movement and changes in the electrodermal activities of the skin.

None of the participants had heart problems, but the researchers say it would be useful to study whether people with heart conditions suffered a greater impact.

The team is also calling for decision-makers to develop, implement and improve guidelines and standards to protect public health around urban spaces.



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