If You're At High Risk For Heart Attack, Stay Out Of Traffic

Image: GPS TracklogImage: GPS TracklogWhether you are driving or taking a bus, heavy traffic sucks. It’s irritating, aggravating, exasperating and now, we find it really is debilitating. A German study found that heart attack victims are three times more likely to have been in heavy traffic within an hour before having the attack.

Maybe we should all learn biofeedback.

The study, reported at the American Heart Association’s 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, also reported a higher number of heart attacks occurring within six hours of exposure to traffic. I guess it takes us awhile to get over the stress of that exposure.

Although driving a car was the most common source of exposure to traffic, those who rode bicycles or took public transportation also appear to be at higher risk. Subjects in the study who had the highest risk of susceptibility to traffic were those in otherwise high risk groups, such as those with a history of angina, patients who were unemployed, elderly males and, interestingly, females.

In fact, females were five times more likely than men to suffer a heart attack within an hour after exposure to traffic. The researchers will study the gender factor more fully in the future, as females were underrepresented in the current study.

Annette Peters, Ph.D., lead author of the study and head of the research unit at the Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Zentrum Muchen, Germany, said that “one potential factor could be the exhaust and air pollution coming from other cars. But we can’t exclude the synergy between stress and air pollution that could tip the balance.”

Further research will also look into the extent that both stress and air pollution have on heart attacks.

Another study on heart health and traffic is currently proceeding at the University of Rochester Particle Center, funded by the EPA. Healthy volunteers are fitted with electrocardiogram equipment that check for pollution and noise. The volunteers go about their work or other daily activities and return in five hours to be checked. These studies are now being conducted with diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.

Science Daily


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