Traffic Exposure Causes Heart Attacks?

POSTED: Friday, March 13, 2009 - 3:16pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:23pm

Stuck in traffic and stressed out?

It's happened to almost every driver.

You're late and creeping along for what feels like forever with no idea what's holding up all those cars in front of you.

Who isn't sick of traffic?

Well, as it turns out traffic can make you sick. It can even kill you.

German researchers have done a study linking traffic to heart attacks the more time you spend behind the wheel the more likely you are to have one.

Jawad Ahmad's on the road four or five hours a day.

He wonders if all that stress is making him sick.

"I gained almost 30-40 pounds since i've been driving. You sit and your blood pressure goes up, your stress level goes up and it has a big affect on your health," said Ahmad.

The American Heart Association's published a German study that found people exposed to traffic are three times more likely to have a heart attack within a few hours and not just if you're driving.

"You are at risk even if you're riding a bike, even if you're walking, even if you're running in a congested area," said Dr. Mark Turco of the Center for Cardiac and Vascular Research.

Stress can trigger heart problems when your blood pressure goes up.

But scientists also think pollution may be a factor.

"The air particulate matter and the pollution itself actually can increase the inflammation of the blood vessels, therefore increasing the development of plaque that forms and all of the factors that may predispose to underlying heart attacks," Turco said.

One delivery driver we spoke to said what's so frustrating is there's often no reason for all that congestion.

"Maybe police cars, maybe ambulance, we understand. But sometimes the issue is in the end, it's nothing. Traffic is there, but there's no accident. There's nothing," said Younis El Alaoui.

Doctors say there is something you can do to lower your risk of a traffic-induced heart attack.

De-stress use scented air fresheners in the car or take the scenic route.

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