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Living Near Traffic Noise Linked to Higher BMI

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Living near a busy road is more than just annoying—it could be causing you to pack on pounds around your middle section. People who are regularly exposed to the noise of traffic are 25 percent more likely to have larger waistlines, reports a new study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (Check out these other 7 Zero-Calorie Factors That Derail Weight Loss.)

Interestingly, women seem to be particularly vulnerable to the sounds of their environments. As the decibels of road traffic noise increased, so did the centimeters of a woman’s waist size—an association the researchers didn’t see as directly in male participants. (And don't discount the risks of a big belly just because you're otherwise fit—there are Belly Fat Dangers for Normal-Weight Women.)

Those unlucky enough to live near a cacophony of road traffic, trains, and planes suffer most, as the triple threat doubles your risk of having a larger middle compared to just living near a loud road.

Researchers aren’t sure of the exact mechanism, but speculate that constant exposure to noise may cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which, in high levels, can lead to a bulging belly. Additionally, the sound may be disrupting your sleep, which can lead to even bigger health issues, like problems with your heart and energy levels, they add. (There's more: 7 Ways Noise Can Affect Your Health.) Plus, all the air pollution coming out of those tail pipes has been shown to increase anxiety in women.

Never noticed the noise of traffic from your living room? Don’t assume you’re safe from the sound—well over half of those surveyed were regularly exposed to road traffic noise of a pound-packing level.

Short of moving to the country, what can you do? Drown out the negative noise with music you find soothing during the day, and try using a noise machine to help you sleep soundly at night. We like the Marpack Dohm Noise Machine ($50; marpac.com).

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