New research suggests that driving in traffic might increase the risk of heart attacks. Scientists from Germany's Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Zentrum München, studied a group of patients who had suffered heart attacks. Apparently, they were three times as likely to have been in traffic during the hour before the cardiac event. From Science Daily:
Driving a car was the most common source of traffic exposure, but taking public transportation or riding a bicycle were other forms of exposure to traffic. Overall, time spent in any mode of transportation in traffic was associated with a 3.2 times higher risk than time spent away from this trigger. Females, elderly males, patients who were unemployed, and those with a history of angina were affected the most by traffic.
"Driving or riding in heavy traffic poses an additional risk of eliciting a heart attack in persons already at elevated risk," said Annette Peters, Ph.D., lead author of the study and head of the research unit at the Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Zentrum Muchen, Germany.
While this study wasn't structured to pinpoint the reasons that being in traffic may have increased the risk of heart attack, "one potential factor could be the exhaust and air pollution coming from other cars," Peters said. "But we can't exclude the synergy between stress and air pollution that could tip the balance."