Beware: Living Close to Major Roads Have Higher Risks of Hypertension

A new study has indicated that living near major road networks might be associated with increased risks of having high blood pressure. The authors examined data of women living within a certain distance from major roads and evaluated their risk to developing hypertension.

proximity to road networks

People usually tend to long for vacations in serene and calm places, away from the busy city-life they have known for years, away from the constant buzz of vehicles going to and fro, and just breathing in fresh air. Surroundings characterised by noise and air pollution we often long to get away from might actually constitute a more insalubrious environment than we would have thought. A new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, has shown a link between traffic exposure and public health risks relating to the heart.

The study has reported that exposure to dense traffic might be impacting negatively on the health of the heart by possibly causing a rise in blood pressure (BP). Data of 5400 post-menopausal women, residing in the San Diego metropolitan area, was studied in relation to how close they lived near to a major roadway. The results indicated that the closer they were to a motorway, the higher was the risk of having high blood pressure: women living within 100 meters of a highway or other busy roads had a 22 % greater risk of high BP than those who lived at least 1000 meters away.

Findings of previous studies did show links between living near major road networks and cardiovascular diseases. Hypertension leads to other cardiovascular complications. This new study might hence further explain the previous results which raised concerns about traffic with respect to residential areas.

The author, Gregory Wellenius, who is the assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health, stated that: “I think in the United States this study does tip the scale in favor of being concerned about the urban environment and how we develop our cities and our transportation systems. There are a lot of new developments going up right near highways. One has to start thinking about what are the associated health effects with that.”

What is it about the proximity to the road that impacts on the blood pressure of the people? Is it noise pollution specifically, or pollutants that are breathed in? Or, perhaps, a combination of both types of pollution? The study did not dig into the possible reasons as to the ‘why’ of the link between living near major roads and being at risk for hypertension. Though, results from previous studies might help shedding light on this question. Other research works have shown that the direct effects of pollution and noise might lead to cardiovascular diseases. However, irrespective of the actual reasons, the researchers have pointed at something else. They have used these results to suggest that the planning of neighbourhoods should include this possibility of having road traffic impacting upon the health of people.

“The public health message is that we need to take into consideration the health of the population when planning neighborhoods, when planning transportation systems, and when deciding where new highways are going to go, and how we might be able to mitigate traffic or its effects,” Wellenius added.

Yet again, we find that our environment affects our innermost being – our very hearts. What we expose ourselves to has an impact on us, inadvertently shaping our health. How fragile is the human being that he absorbs in elements from his surroundings, whether he wants it or not; which is why we should be cautious as to what do we expose ourselves to. In the end, we are just sponge-beings, taking in what the environment has to give us. Now, imagine how much the damage we do to the natural world around us impacts on our own selves while we blindly continue to destroy it, without realising that we are destroying our own selves with our own hands at the same time.

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