Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Report: "Sitting in [D.C.] traffic triggers more heart attacks than eating, alcohol, cocaine, and sex"

My wife thinks that I have some sort of pathological problem when it comes to traffic - I will go to great lengths and spend non-trivial amounts of money to avoid sitting in traffic. Unfortunately, I currently live and work in a place that is notorious for its god-awful traffic - the D.C. metro area is tied with Chicago for having the worst congestion in the country, with the average D.C. driver spending 70 hours a year just sitting in stalled traffic (granted, this analysis of congestion is somewhat flawed, but still, traffic congestion around here is REALLY bad). Fortunately, I live in D.C. proper and work in northern Virginia, meaning that I have a 10-15 minute one-way reverse-commute most days, and I am able to work a relatively flexible work schedule that allows me to avoid most of the congestion most of time time - so I realize that I have it FAR better than most people who drive to work around here.

Nevertheless, apparently I am wise to avoid traffic whenever possible, as Grist reports that sitting in traffic apparently triggers more heart attacks than eating, alcohol, cocaine, and sex:
Air pollution from auto exhaust triggers a greater proportion of all heart attacks (7.4 percent) than physical exertion (6.2 percent), drinking alcohol or coffee (5 percent), exposure to air pollution in general (4.8 percent), negative emotions (3.9 percent), anger (3.1 percent), a heavy meal (2.7 percent), positive emotions (2.4 percent), sex (2.2 percent), or cocaine (<1 percent).
 Reuters confirms that just sitting in traffic is the single biggest heart attack trigger:
"Of the triggers for heart attack studied, cocaine is the most likely to trigger an event in an individual, but traffic has the greatest population effect as more people are exposed to (it)," the researchers wrote.
So, here's to avoiding traffic whenever possible.

As a reminder of the health benefits of avoiding traffic, here's a video of an 8.5 hour commute home from D.C. to the Virginia suburbs that happened as a result of the January 26, 2011 Commutageddon storm (my trip home that day took a mere 2 hours ... thank goodness for small blessings, right?). This is what I do my best to avoid:

Just watching that video raises my blood pressure!

P.S. After writing the first draft of this post, I came across this tidbit that helps explain why D.C. metro traffic is so bad - apparently no one driving around in the D.C. metro area knows where they're going. Watching people try to navigate the highway exchanges and downtown roads, I can't say I'm surprised by these findings.

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