Does air traffic affect blood pressure?

Does noise make you sick?

The essentials in brief...

Noise illnesses deal with the physical and psychological effects of noise on people.
How are noise illnesses classified?

Noise causes insomnia. These can be caused by waking up reactions in the second half of the night.
sleep disorders

Noise is often a general nuisance for humans. This manifests itself in irritability, physical restlessness, upset and stress.
Noise pollution

In the long term, noise can lead to high blood pressure. Life-threatening secondary diseases such as stroke or heart attack can result.
High blood pressure

High blood pressure can lead to calcification of the coronary arteries (arteriosclerosis). Blood clots that break away from the calcifications in the coronary arteries are the most common cause of heart attacks.
Heart attack

Other diseases that can occur in connection with noise are increased blood lipid levels, cancer, thyroid disorders, increased drug consumption and mental disorders.
Other noise illnesses

How are noise illnesses classified?

The effects of noise can generally be divided into 4 categories:

  1. Physical effects of noise
  2. Psychological effects of noise
  3. Social noise effects
  4. Economic effects of noise

Noise illnesses only deal with categories 1 and 2.

The physical effects of noise describe the effects that noise can have on the body. These include, for example, cardiovascular problems, cancer, diseases of the thyroid gland, hormonal disorders, inflammatory reactions and increased blood lipid levels.

The psychological effects of noise describe the effects that noise can have on the mind, psyche and behavior. These include, for example, sleep disorders, a subjective feeling of noise pollution, learning difficulties in children, stress, nervousness, tension, reduced resilience, psychological disorders and increased drug consumption.


sleep disorders

Source: Inselspital Bern, sleep laboratory

The phases of sleep in humans. It can be seen that the light sleep phases increase as the night progresses

As the figure shows, there are 2 sleep stages in sleeping people: REM (blue) and non-REM (black). REM stands for "Rapid Eye Movement". During this phase, the eyes move back and forth regularly. We don't sleep deeply in the REM phase. The non-REM phase is the deep sleep phase. The figure shows that the deep sleep phases become shorter and shorter as the night progresses.

If the noise level does not decrease even at night, the REM phase of sleep is shortened. Noises of 30 dB or more are sufficient for this - this corresponds to constant conversation in a whisper. From 40 - 45 dB (about the volume of a conversation at room volume), sleepers release more stress hormones and do not come to rest even at night. As a result, not only does performance decrease during the day, but the noise exposure also affects behavior and increases aggressiveness, for example.


To diagnose the sleep disorder, measurements are made in the sleep laboratory: brain waves, eye movements, muscle movements and heart rate.

Test persons with sleep problems due to noise often wake up reactions in the second half of the night. Thus, REM sleep is more susceptible to noise than non-REM sleep. The mental abilities of the test subjects who spent a night with noise were restricted in the tests.

In Germany, core rest periods between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. have been introduced at three airports. During these times, people near the airport were not woken up by aircraft noise. The results showed that the wake-up frequency could be reduced from 2.0 to 0.8 and thus the main goal of introducing core rest time was achieved.


Noise pollution

The WHO (World Health Organization) defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of illness or infirmity". Noise-related nuisance has a negative impact on health. People who are disturbed by noise can show negative reactions such as anger, disappointment, dissatisfaction, withdrawal, helplessness, depression, fear, distraction, restlessness or exhaustion. In addition, complaints such as tiredness, stomach upset and stress can be associated with noise.


People exposed to noise can show negative reactions such as anger, disappointment and dissatisfaction.

The level of noise pollution is usually determined using a questionnaire. The various international commissions are making efforts to standardize the questionnaires. These questionnaires ask questions about the level of harassment. The percentage of highly angry people (i.e. the percentage of people with an answer greater than 72 in the questionnaire) is used to measure the level of annoyance in a population.


High blood pressure

What is blood pressure

Without a beating heart, there would be no blood pressure. The heart is our motor and impresses with its enormous muscle power: it pumps around 9,000 liters of blood through our arteries and veins every day. The blood presses on the vessels with tremendous force. This force is called blood pressure. First, the heart contracts to pump blood into the arteries. The blood presses against the inner wall of the arteries so hard that they expand. The resulting pressure is called systolic blood pressure. This is followed by a short break: the heart relaxes, the pressure decreases and the blood vessels return to their original size. Despite relaxation, there is pressure in the vessels: this is called diastolic blood pressure.

Blood pressure is subject to natural fluctuations. It can change during the day or from one day to the next. Often it depends on our physical activity and mood. It increases in stressful situations or decreases when we are comfortable and relaxed. The following video shows an animation of the heart and the development of blood pressure.


The video shows what blood pressure is and how it is created.

What is high blood pressure?

Doctors also call high blood pressure hypertension. "Hyper" comes from the Greek and means "too much", "tonie" is derived from the Latin word "tonus". That means something like "tension" and means the pressure on the vessel walls.

In certain situations, blood pressure rises or falls - this is completely normal. One speaks of high blood pressure only when the values ​​are above 140/90 mmHg for a longer period of time.

As a rule, high blood pressure does not cause an immediate feeling of illness. Rather, they are "everyday complaints" that are rarely associated with high blood pressure. However, dizziness, drowsiness, visual disturbances and a feeling of pressure in the head or nosebleeds can be traced back to high pressure. But the danger is creeping: The seemingly harmless symptoms can be warning signals for life-threatening secondary diseases (e.g. stroke or heart attack). Other sequelae such as heart failure (heart failure) can also result.


High blood pressure can lead to various complications.

Noise and high blood pressure

Studies showed that the subjects were more prone to high blood pressure due to long-term exposure to noise. Night aircraft noise and daytime traffic noise in particular seem to be important in connection with high blood pressure. The studies showed that noise-induced high blood pressure affects men more often than women.


Heart attack

What are vascular calcifications?

Our heart is a large hollow muscle. The muscle tissue is supplied with oxygen-rich blood via the two coronary vessels, which branch out into a dense network of vessels. The coronary arteries can be narrowed by deposits of fat and lime, the doctor speaks of a "stenosis". These deposits are also called arteriosclerotic plaques. They can be caused by longstanding noise-related high blood pressure. To do this, look at the following illustration. Hover over it and watch what happens to the right coronary artery.


This illustration shows by means of animation how the coronary arteries can narrow due to deposits of fat and calcium.

Studies also showed a second possibility of how noise can cause arteriosclerosis: The subjects in these studies were exposed to aircraft noise while sleeping. It could be shown that the test subjects' adrenaline output was increased because of the aircraft noise, regardless of whether the test subject woke up from sleep or not. The accumulation of adrenaline leads to so-called oxygen radicals, which attack the inner wall of the coronary vessels. The vascular walls lose their elasticity as a result, a preliminary stage to arteriosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis poses a great danger: large plaques constrict the vessels so much that the blood can barely flow through them. The heart muscle cells are still adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients at rest. However, during physical exertion such as climbing stairs, there is a lack of oxygen in the heart muscle and so-called angina pectoris complaints such as pressure on the chest, shortness of breath and sweating.

How does a heart attack occur?


The video shows how a heart attack occurs.

With smaller plaques, the surface of the vessel threatens to tear open. The resulting blood clot clogs the vessel, stops the blood flow and interrupts the oxygen supply to the heart muscle. If heart muscle cells perish en masse due to lack of oxygen, one speaks of a heart attack.


Other noise illnesses

Increased fat levels in the blood

An investigation came to the conclusion that the risk of medical treatment due to increased blood lipids was increased if the nocturnal constant noise level from road traffic was above 55 dB (A) for the test persons. Elevated blood lipids can contribute to the calcification of the coronary arteries. This can lead to a heart attack.


The blood lipids can be increased by nocturnal street noise. Blood lipids are made up of cholesterol and so-called triglycerides. The cholestrin is further subdivided into LDL (low density) and HDL (high density).


One study concluded that the risk of cancer treatment increases with nighttime traffic noise levels. The risk of the test persons in the sound level category above 55 dB (A) was higher than that in the reference category below 50 dB (A). The cause could be a disturbance of the immune system in the case of chronic noise stress.

Thyroid disorders

In a study, the subjects who lived in aircraft noise zone 2 (continuous noise level:> 67 to 75 dB (A)) had an increased risk of medical thyroid treatment compared to subjects outside aircraft noise zone 3 (<62 dB (A)).

Drug use

In a further study, the influence of aircraft noise at Cologne-Bonn Airport on the prescription behavior of physicians in private practice was examined on the basis of routine data from statutory health insurances. The data from 809,379 insured persons were merged with noise data (air traffic, road traffic, rail traffic).


One study showed that people who live in noisy environments are often prescribed medicines by their doctor.

It was found that the number of prescriptions and the number of prescriptions was increased in regions exposed to noise. The drugs prescribed were drugs to treat high blood pressure, heart and circulatory diseases, tranquillizers, and sedatives and sleeping pills. Women were more affected than men, especially they were exposed to aircraft noise in the second half of the night (3:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.).

Mental disorders

Further studies established a connection between the subjectively perceived disturbance caused by traffic noise during the day and medical treatment of psychological disorders: subjects who subjectively felt “severely disturbed” (categories 3 + 4 + 5 on a 5-point scale) were more likely to be psychological Disturbances in medical treatment as subjects who were “little disturbed” (categories 1 + 2).

It has also been shown that the risk of depression increases with all three types of traffic noise as the noise level increases. The risk of depression is particularly pronounced when there is air traffic noise.