Saturday, October 7, 2023

Does Loud Noise Cause Heart Problems?

Recently, I read an article that claimed loud noise is linked to heart disease. A study found that traffic noise raises a person’s risk of heart disease by 8 percent for every 10 decibels of noise.

The average city street during rush hour can be approximately 30 to 40 decibels louder than sitting in your living room at home. So, according to the study, this means strolling down the sidewalk at 5 p.m. rather than being at home can increase your risk of heart disease anywhere from 26 to 36 percent. 
Hmm, I’m not buying that at all. First, if you’re walking on the sidewalk downtown, you are getting some exercise, which is good for your heart. But if you’re sitting on the couch in your living room — at least if you’re an American — you are most likely watching TV and scarfing down a bag of chocolate-covered pork rinds, or some other tasty snack. Despite being a life-long tasty snack connoisseur (emphasis on “sewer”), I acknowledge that scarfing down junk food on a regular basis is not exactly what most heart surgeons advise their patients to do — unless those doctors happen to be behind in their Mercedes payments. 

There must be something else besides loud traffic noise that increases heart disease. Maybe it’s the fact that if you’re out on a noisy city street during rush hour, you also are breathing in a bunch of exhaust fumes. This might be a factor.

However, because of pollution regulations and technological advancements in the auto industry, the amount of unhealthy vehicle fumes these days has been greatly reduced. Does anyone remember growing up in the 1960s? Back then virtually every car had a plume of black smoke billowing from the tailpipe. And the bigger and blacker the cloud of smoke behind a car, the cooler we thought that car was.
Of course, this is not to say that doing deep-breathing exercises with your mouth a foot away from a modern car’s tailpipe is risk free. For example, the driver could put the car into reverse and back right over you — which, I think I can safely say even though I never went to med school, is bad for your health.

OK, so the main point is this: I still have 250 more words to go to finish this column, and therefore I need to think up a few more inane comments about city streets, noise, heart disease, and chocolate-covered pork rinds. Here goes:

I’m very skeptical about the alleged connection between loud noise and heart disease. If that really were true, I would’ve dropped dead a half century ago. You see, when I was in my teens and 20s, I enjoyed sticking my head inside of column speakers. I didn’t just want to hear John Bonham and Keith Moon’s drumming, I wanted to feel it to the point that my bones oscillated and the gray matter in my skull vibrated like a bowl of Jell-O during an earthquake. I’m not saying what I did back in my college days was smart; it was in fact rather dopey. (Emphasis on “dope,” if you get my drift.)
If there really is a connection between loud noises and heart disease, then I guess it’s not a good idea to stroll down the sidewalk during the 5 p.m. rush hour. You’d be better off going for a walk downtown when it’s much quieter, say, at midnight. (By the way, I don’t know if the researchers included the sound of gunshots in their study.)

And to maintain good heart health, make sure that every time you sit on your couch and scarf down a bag of chocolate-covered pork rinds, you turn the TV volume down. 

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