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article imageGerman Study: Traffic triples the risk of heart attacks

By Nikki Weingartner     Mar 13, 2009 in Health
Traffic is a major source of many negative issues. It can wreak havoc on a vehicle, cause stress and even set off road rage in some drivers. But now, there is a new addition to the list and this one can have a deadly outcome.
A German study of over 1,400 heart attack patients found a link between those who sat in traffic and heart attacks, with the side of the auto where one sits or mode of transportation making relatively little difference in the study findings, as shown in a Canadian news article:
The study wasn't intended to find clear reasons why traffic may increase heart attack risk, but [Annette] Peters said the exhaust and air pollution from other cars could be a contributing factor.
"But we can't exclude the synergy between stress and air pollution that could tip the balance"
Overall, those who spent time in traffic were at a 3.2 times higher risk of having a heart attack than those who weren't exposed, even nailing the probability timeline of the heart attack down to within an hour after the traffic exposure. Also noted in the study was that women were at a five times higher risk than their male counterparts, with elderly males, unemployed individuals and those with a history of angina to be in the risk category.
In a WebMD news article, the high rate of risk to women was explained as a possible inaccuracy:
although the relatively small number of women in the study (325) may have made this calculation less accurate.
The research team at the Epidemiology, Helmholtz Center, in Munich performed an earlier study that showed increased levels of strenuous activity resulted in a five to six times greater risk of heart attack following the activity. That same study also revealed that about eight percent of heart attacks are linked to traffic. This new study confirms the early study results, with the lead study author stating that "It is reassuring that we were able to reconfirm this association in an extended case series. Now it's important to find out what is behind this, whether it is air pollution or stress or both."
A new study has been implemented between the German research group and the University of Rochester involving 120 healthy individuals who will be wearing heart monitors and other devices that will measure and record pollution levels during commutes and while running errands. The study is not yet complete.
The bottom line is whether you are a passenger on a bus or riding your bike, if traffic is part of your daily routine, you may have triple the risk of having a heart attack than those who take the scenic route.
The German research was presented at the American Heart Association's 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease in Florida earlier this week.
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