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Traffic: Serious as a Heart Attack

8:49 AM PDT on March 16, 2009

Automobile congestion is too often portrayed as mere nuisance or inconvenience. A new study from Germany, which we heard about via Streetsblog Network member blog The Hard Drive,
reminds us that it is much more than that. The study, presented at the
American Heart Association's 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular
Disease Epidemiology and Prevention last week, shows that being in a
traffic jam -- whether in a car, on a bike, or on a bus -- can triple a
person's chance of having a heart attack:

703476356_990e40a55a_1.jpgPhoto by K2D2vaca via Flickr.

"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," the study says.

The
researchers didn't try to pinpoint the reasons for the increased risks,
but stress is a suspect. Another one: the exhaust and air pollution
coming from other cars, the authors said.

Past studies have discovered that pollution from car exhausts
causes arteries to stiffen, resulting in higher blood pressure and
reduced blood flow to the heart.

Women, the researchers found, seem to be particularly at risk.

Over at Market Urbanism, there's more talk about traffic -- and the free-market argument for road pricing. At Seattle's Orphan Road, there's a post on the "black hole" of car ownership. And Boston Biker reports on Mayor Thomas Menino's proposal to open Newbury Street to pedestrians on weekends this summer.

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