Living near a busy road can cause heart disease, research claims.
Long-term exposure to air particles from traffic pollution can cause clogging of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, according to a study.
Studying 5,000 participants with an average age of 60, researchers – who presented their findings at a conference in Rome, Italy – looked for a link between heart disease and proximity to major roads.
They determined that the closer you lived to heavy-traffic roads, the higher your level of calcium around the heart – potentially causing a condition known as aortic calcification.
For every 300ft you are closer to major traffic, levels increased by 10 per cent, the study found.
Dr Hagen Kalsch, who led the study, said: ‘These two major types of traffic emissions help explain the observed associations between living close to high traffic and subclinical atherosclerosis.
‘The considerable size of the associations underscores the importance of long-term exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise as risk factors for atherosclerosis.’
Traffic pollution and noise are believed to act through similar bodily pathways, thereby increasing cardiovascular risk, researchers said.
They both cause an imbalance in the nervous system, which regulates blood pressure, blood lipids and glucose level.
Dr Kalsch, from West-German Heart Center in Essen, Germany, said: ‘Fine particle matters and traffic noise are believed to act through similar biologic pathways. This we think causes cardiovascular disease.
‘They both cause an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, which feeds into the complex mechanisms regulating blood pressure, blood lipids, glucose level, clotting and viscosity.’
The findings were presented at the EuroPRevent 2013 conference. Previous research also found for every ten decibels of noise from traffic, the risk of a heart attack is increased by 12 per cent.
A further study by researchers in France showed that pollutants found in traffic also increased risk of heart attacks.