No one likes to sit in traffic. Whether you’re on your way to work, driving to the grocery store, or just trying to make it home for the night — getting caught in traffic can be a nightmare. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are over 50,000 traffic accidents related to towing, and 90% of all motor vehicle crashes are caused by human error. Clearly, these accidents can occur at any time and significantly backup traffic.
Traffic jams might be a little worse for you than you originally thought, however. Sure they are stressful, but bad traffic and loud traffic noise can actually harm your heart.
About 15% of adults ages 18 and older already have some form of trouble hearing — and regularly commuting to and from work or getting stuck in traffic isn’t helping. It’s not just hearing problems that need to be addressed, however, it’s something much worse.
According to Harvard Heart Letter, many studies have observed a link between transpiration-related noise and a higher risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, heart disease, and other serious health concerns.
WebMD adds that whenever you are stuck in traffic you’re actually tripling your chance for heart attack.
“One potential factor could be the exhaust and air pollution coming from other cars,” said Annette Peters, Ph.D., of the Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Center in Munich, Germany. “But we can’t exclude the synergy between stress and air pollution that could tip the balance.”
Rather than just putting headphones in and attempting to block out the annoying sounds of traffic, try actively improving your heart’s health. Simply adjusting the way you travel throughout the day and week can actually have a positive impact on your heart and your health. In fact, according to a study by the British Medical Association, coronary heart disease was reduced by as much as 50% when people bicycled at least 20 miles a week.
Here are a few additional heart-friendly exercises to consider:
- Go for more walks — Walking is the number one most important aerobic exercise you can do. It’s enjoyable, safe, inexpensive, and easy to fit into a busy schedule.
- Work on resistance training — Strength work has a great effect on body composition and heart health. If you’re carrying a lot of body fat, performing some resistance training activities can help raise your HDL (good) cholesterol and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Stretch as much as you can — Stretching is imperative before and after a workout, but you should be stretching throughout the day to improve your flexibility, balance, and overall health.
“If you have a good musculoskeletal foundation, that enables you to do the exercises that help your heart,” said Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., an exercise physiologist at Johns Hopkins.
Don’t let traffic cause more problems than it already does. Try to dealing with busy traffic jams as much as possible, get a little more active, and be mindful of your heart health at all times!