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Traffic Jams Harm the Heart
Date:3/13/2009

. All had suffered a heart attack between 1999 and 2003, and all were subsequently interviewed to recall experiences in the four days leading up to the event that might have triggered the first symptoms.

The researchers found that 8 percent of the heart attacks were specifically attributable to having been in traffic -- the kind which Peters described as "local, everyday life commuting."

In addition to identifying a 3.2 times higher risk for suffering a heart attack within the first hour after traffic exposure, the research team found that even six hours after exposure, there remained a significant -- though small -- increase in risk.

Being the driver of a car was the most common form of traffic exposure, followed by being a rider of public transportation and/or bicycling.

Patients who had a prior history of angina -- as well as women, elderly men and the unemployed -- appeared to be particularly sensitive to the observed increase in risk. Women, in fact, were found to have a five times greater risk for a heart attack following such exposure -- a gender bump the researchers suggested might be rooted in physiological differences or simply a reflection of the smaller number of women included in the study.

Going forward, Peters and her associates have embarked on further studies to try to determine exactly what aspects of traffic could account for the connection.

Meanwhile, two experts point out that a number of recent studies have already specifically and strongly tied traffic-related exhaust and air pollution exposure to health problems.

"This data is very consistent with reports that this kind of exposure leads to inflammation, cholesterol build-up in the arteries and heart attacks, although there's also a lot of data about stress and its connections to heart attacks," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "So, probably both of these fa
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