05:30am Saturday 19 August 2017

Exposure to Everyday Noise Influences Heart Rate Variability

Ute Kraus

Portrait ofUte KrausThe association between noise exposure, particularly high noise levels, and cardiovascular disease is known from previous studies. Ute Kraus and colleagues of the Environmental Risks research group led by Dr. Alexandra Schneider at the Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) at Helmholtz Zentrum München have now studied the effects of exposure to our everyday background noise. Their findings: Exposure to this noise also poses health risks.

The scientists analyzed data from participants in the population-based KORA study. 110 participants were equipped with portable ECG devices that recorded their heart rate in repeated measurements over a period of approximately six hours, and individual noise levels were also recorded. The noise exposure were classified into two ranges (above and below a threshold of 65 dB), and the corresponding heart rates and/or the heart rate variability (HRV) were analyzed. The HRV describes the adaptability of the cardiovascular system to acute events and is regulated by the autonomic nervous system, which consists of nerve groups of the so-called sympathetic and parasympathetic system. An activation of the sympathetic system and a decrease in parasympathetic activity result in reduced HRV. A low HRV represents a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The results of the study show that HRV was reduced in association with increases of 5 dB in noise exposure at both the higher and lower noise level ranges. “The study showed that not only higher noise levels have a stressful effect and are harmful to health, but that lower noise levels can cause adverse health effects, too,” said Professor Annette Peters, director of the EPI II. “We are currently studying the sources of noise from the everyday environment. It would also be interesting to repeat the study on younger participants and conduct sensitivity analyses as well as measurements of other health parameters, such as blood pressure.” Since the average age of this study population was 61 years, these results might not be generalizable to other study populations.

Environmental and lifestyle factors contribute significantly to the development of widespread diseases in Germany, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. The aim of Helmholtz Zentrum München is to develop new approaches for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of common chronic diseases.

Further information

Original publication:
Kraus, U. et al. (2013), Individual Day-Time Noise Exposure during Routine Activities and Heart Rate Variability in Adults: A Repeated Measures Study, Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 121, Number 5, 607 – 612

Link to journal publication

Helmholtz Zentrum München, as German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of major widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The head office of the Center is located in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München has a staff of about 2,100 people and is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de

The Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) focuses on the assessment of environmental and lifestyle risk factors which jointly affect major chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and mental health. Research builds on the unique resources of the KORA cohort, the KORA myocardial infarction registry, and the KORA aerosol measurement station. Aging-related phenotypes have been added to the KORA research portfolio within the frame of the Research Consortium KORA-Age. The institute’s contributions are specifically relevant for the population as modifiable personal risk factors are being researched that could be influenced by the individual or by improving legislation for the protection of public health.

For more than 20 years, the research platform Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region (KORA) has been collecting and analyzing data on the health of thousands of people living in the Augsburg region. The objective is to elucidate the effects of environmental factors, behavior and genes. KORA focuses on the development and course of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes mellitus. Risk factors are analyzed with regard to individual health behavior (e.g. smoking, diet, exercise), environmental factors (e.g. air pollution, noise) and genetics. From the perspective of health care research, questions regarding the utilization of health care resources and the cost of health care are also studied. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/kora

Contact for media representatives

Department of Communication, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Ingolstädter Landstraße 1 85764 Neuherberg, Germany – Phone: +49(0)89-3187-2238 – Fax: +49(0)89-3187-3324 – e-mail: presse(at)helmholtz-muenchen.de

Scientific contact
Prof. Annette Peters, Helmholtz Zentrum München – Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH), Institute of Epidemiology II, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany – Phone: +49-89-3187-4566 – e-mail: peters(at)helmholtz-muenchen.de 

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