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CDC: Loud workplaces ‘linked to high cholesterol and blood pressure’

Loud noise levels in American workplaces could be contributing to high cholesterol and high blood pressure levels among workers, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. The analysis published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examined the association between noise exposure in the workplace and heart disease, hearing problems and heart conditions. 

It found a quarter of people workers in the United States - around 41 million - have a history of loud noise exposure at work, with 14 percent exposed in the preceding 12 months. A worrying 24 percent of workers exposed to occupational noise had high blood pressure, with 28 percent recording high cholesterol levels, the analysis revealed. Of those experiencing these conditions, 14 percent and nine percent of cases respectively could be attributed to exposure to high levels of noise at work. 

Commenting on the findings, director of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) John Howard, MD, said: “Reducing workplace noise levels is critical not just for hearing loss prevention - it may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol.” 

“Worksite health and wellness programs that include screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol should also target noise-exposed workers,” he asserted. Among those most at risk were workers in the mining, construction and the manufacturing sectors, as these industries had the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of around 610,000 Americans each year. Other risk factors that increase the likelihood of heart disease or a heart attack include diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive consumption of alcohol. 

Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, may be treated with medications in a range of different drug classes, including thiazide diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and beta blockers. 

High cholesterol is commonly treated with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, also called statins, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Precose (acarbose). In both cases, lifestyle changes can also have a significant impact on blood pressure and high cholesterol, for example patients may be advised to make changes such as improving diet, getting more exercise, losing weight and reducing alcohol consumption.