TGN Brief: Train Tracks and Heart Attacks

TGN Brief: Train Tracks and Heart Attacks

TGN Brief: Train Tracks and Heart Attacks: Environmental Noise And Health Disparities

Elvin T. Price, Pharm.D., Ph.D. @DrElvinP

Train tracks often serve as unofficial “welcome mats” to predominately African American neighborhoods.  On the other side of these unofficial welcome mats; we observe health disparities that continue to puzzle our nation’s top healthcare professionals.  Cardiovascular diseases (i.e. High Blood Pressure, Heart Failure, and Type 2 Diabetes) are consistently more prevalent in these communities than in others.1,2 Culturally sensitive medical and community interventions have been developed and implemented to address these disparities, but African-Americans remain among the highest CVD risk groups in the US.1  However, the train tracks identify a potential contributor to the health disparities that have been understudied as a contributor to poor health.  The train tracks suggest that we should consider the influence of environmental noise on the cardiovascular health of African Americans who live in neighborhoods aligned by these tracks.

Environmental noise has documented detrimental effects on cardiovascular health.3-7 Researchers discovered that environmental noise from major roadways, railways, and airplanes influence cardiovascular health.  Specifically, living near major roadways has been linked to risks of high blood pressure,4 heart disease,8,9 heart attacks,10 heart failure,11 stroke,12,13 and kidney disease.14 Furthermore, living near major roadways has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death.3,15 Environmental noise appears to increase the release of hormones that we associate with the “Fight or Flight Response”.  This continual stimulation can negatively impact the cardiovascular health of people living in close proximity to railways, major roadways and airports.

In this brief post, we cited a small portion of the available data that are suggestive of a negative impact of environmental noise on cardiovascular health. However, there is a paucity of reports that were designed to specifically examine the impact of environmental noise on the cardiovascular health of communities with a large percentage of African-Americans. Therefore, we encourage advocacy groups, healthcare associations, and healthcare research funders to support research efforts to study the impact of environmental noise on the cardiovascular health disparities of African -Americans.


  1. Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics–2015 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131(4):e29-322.
  2. Balamurugan A, Delongchamp R, Bates JH, Mehta JL. The neighborhood where you live is a risk factor for stroke. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2013;6(6):668-673.
  3. Halonen JI, Hansell AL, Gulliver J, et al. Road traffic noise is associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and all-cause mortality in London. Eur Heart J. 2015.
  4. Kirwa K, Eliot MN, Wang Y, et al. Residential proximity to major roadways and prevalent hypertension among postmenopausal women: results from the Women’s Health Initiative San Diego Cohort. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014;3(5):e000727.
  5. Schmidt FP, Basner M, Kroger G, et al. Effect of nighttime aircraft noise exposure on endothelial function and stress hormone release in healthy adults. Eur Heart J. 2013;34(45):3508-3514a.
  6. Smith MG, Croy I, Ogren M, Persson Waye K. On the influence of freight trains on humans: a laboratory investigation of the impact of nocturnal low frequency vibration and noise on sleep and heart rate. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e55829.
  7. Tassi P, Saremi M, Schimchowitsch S, Eschenlauer A, Rohmer O, Muzet A. Cardiovascular responses to railway noise during sleep in young and middle-aged adults. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010;108(4):671-680.
  8. Hoffmann B, Moebus S, Mohlenkamp S, et al. Residential exposure to traffic is associated with coronary atherosclerosis. Circulation. 2007;116(5):489-496.
  9. Hoffmann B, Moebus S, Stang A, et al. Residence close to high traffic and prevalence of coronary heart disease. Eur Heart J. 2006;27(22):2696-2702.
  10. Tonne C, Melly S, Mittleman M, Coull B, Goldberg R, Schwartz J. A case-control analysis of exposure to traffic and acute myocardial infarction. Environ Health Perspect. 2007;115(1):53-57.
  11. Van Hee VC, Adar SD, Szpiro AA, et al. Exposure to traffic and left ventricular mass and function: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009;179(9):827-834.
  12. Maheswaran R, Elliott P. Stroke mortality associated with living near main roads in England and wales: a geographical study. Stroke. 2003;34(12):2776-2780.
  13. Wilker EH, Mostofsky E, Lue SH, et al. Residential proximity to high-traffic roadways and poststroke mortality. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2013;22(8):e366-372.
  14. Lue SH, Wellenius GA, Wilker EH, Mostofsky E, Mittleman MA. Residential proximity to major roadways and renal function. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2013;67(8):629-634.
  15. Rosenbloom JI, Wilker EH, Mukamal KJ, Schwartz J, Mittleman MA. Residential proximity to major roadway and 10-year all-cause mortality after myocardial infarction. Circulation. 2012;125(18):2197-2203.

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