CDC: Hypertension, High Cholesterol Associated with Noisy Jobs

March 27th 2018
Kristen Coppock, MA, Editor
Kristen Coppock, MA, Editor

Hypertension and high cholesterol are more common among workers exposed to loud noises at work, according to a recent study

Hypertension and high cholesterol are more common among workers exposed to loud noises at work, according to a recent study conducted by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, the study found that 41 million people—a quarter of workers in the United States—reported a history of noise exposure on the job.1Due to their findings, researchers concluded that reducing workplace noise levels is critical.2

High blood pressure, and high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are key risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women. Hypertension is known as “the silent killer,” because of its lack of symptoms and the damage it causes to blood vessels, according to the American Heart Association.3LDL cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis and plaque buildups that narrow arteries, raising the risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and stroke.4

Loud noise is one of the most common workplace hazards in the United States, affecting about 22 million workers each year, according to the CDC. NIOSH researchers analyzed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey to estimate the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty, and heart conditions within US industries and occupations. The study also examined the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease.1

According to the researchers’ findings, 25% of current workers had a history of noise exposure on the job, while 14% were exposed last year.1Twelve percent of workers had hearing difficulty, 24% reported hypertension, and 28% had elevated cholesterol levels. Of these cases, 58%, 14% and 9%, respectively, can be attributed to occupational noise exposure.2

“A significant percentage of the workers we studied have hearing difficulty, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that could be attributed to noise at work,” Liz Masterson, PhD, a co-author of the study said in a statement. “If noise could be reduced to safer levels in the workplace, more than 5 million cases of hearing difficulty among noise-exposed workers could potentially be prevented.”

Industries with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were mining (61%), construction (51%), and manufacturing (47%). Occupations with the highest prevalence of on-the-job noise exposure were production (55%); construction and extraction (54%); and installation, maintenance, and repair (54%).1The study provides evidence of an association of occupational noise exposure with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to Masterson.1The study’s authors also concluded that workplace-based health and wellness programs should be considered as a preventive measure.2

“It is important that workers be screened regularly for these conditions in the workplace or through a health care provider, so interventions can occur,” Masterson said in the statement. “As these conditions are more common among noise-exposed workers, they could especially benefit from these screenings.”

References

  1. High blood pressure and high cholesterol associated with noisy jobs [news release]. CDC. March 21, 2018.https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0321-noisy-jobs.html. Accessed March 26, 2018.
  2. Kerns E, Masterson EA, Themann CL, Calvert GM. Cardiovascular conditions, hearing difficulty, and occupational noise exposure within US industries and occupations.Am J Ind Med. 2018. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22833.
  3. American Heart Association. High blood pressure.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed March 26, 2018.
  4. The good and the bad: HDL, LDL and triglycerides. American Heart Association.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/HDLLDLTriglycerides/HDL-Good-LDL-Bad-Cholesterol-and-Triglycerides_UCM_305561_Article.jsp#.WrlcnOjwbIU. Updated February 20, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2018.

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