Exposure to loud traffic noise can increase the risk of stroke in people over the age of 65, according to new study results. Danish researchers found that for every 10 decibels that noise rose, the risk of stroke escalated by more than 14%.

This is the first study to investigate a possible link between traffic noise and stroke.

The findings suggest that nursing homes without adequate sound proofing in busy urban or metropolitan areas could be putting residents at heightened risk.

Previous studies have linked traffic noise with increased risk of heart attack and other cardiac conditions, but this is the first that associates noise and stroke, the researchers said. Seniors might be more at risk due to fragmented sleep patterns that are common in that age group, investigators hypothesized.

“The mechanisms involved are probably the same mechanisms believed to be involved in noise-induced hypertension and heart attacks, namely that noise acts as a stressor and disturbs sleep, which results in increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as increased level of stress hormones,” said Senior Researcher, Dr. Mette Sørensen. “Taken together, all of these could increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases.”

Since the study is epidemiological, it is not able to show conclusively that traffic noise increases the cause of stroke,  just that there is an association, researchers noted.

Study results appeared in the European Heart Journal.