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Daily Dose

Living near a busy road linked to sudden heart deaths in women


Living on a busy street certainly has its aggravations. There’s sirens and rumbling trucks that constantly interrupt sleep, or the buildup of exhaust particles accumulating on your windows and probably in your lungs. A study published last Monday in the journal Circulation suggests living within 165 feet of a major five-lane roadway could modestly increase a woman’s risk of dying from a heart attack.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health identified 523 sudden cardiac deaths among more than 107,000 female participants in the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study and found that those who lived near a major highway or busy thoroughfare had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiac arrest over a two-year period compared to those who lived farther away. While researchers didn’t measure air pollutants the women were exposed to, previous studies conducted worldwide have shown that air pollution can trigger heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heart rhythms, particularly in those already at increased risk. Stress from noise pollution and disrupted sleep could also be a contributing factor.


“If everyone in the study population moved away from a major roadway, we calculated that 18 percent of cardiac deaths we observed could have been avoided,” said study leader Jaime Hart, an instructor at the Brigham. D.K.