Why Sitting in Traffic is Bad For Your Health


If you’re in North Texas, there’s a good chance that you’re stuck in traffic, especially around rush hour. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. It’s stressful, and it doesn’t stop there.

According to a new study, if you live in a high-traffic area then your mental health might be affected. I sat down with NewsRadio 1080 KRLD to talk more about the impact of noisy traffic on your health and to share some surprising information.

Q:  Most everyone in Dallas-Fort Worth deals with traffic on a daily basis. How might that impact people’s physical well-being?

The study out of Denmark examined 50,000 people over 10 years and found that they had an increased risk of heart attack and research from other studies suggest that for every 10 decibel increase in traffic noise, heart attack risk went up 12 percent.

Previous studies indicated no effect on heart attack for noise up to 60 decibels, which is the equivalent of office noise. Yet, this study found a much lower threshold at around 40 decibels, the equivalent of a refrigerator humming (basically anything above a whisper).

Q:  Is hearing the noise itself what raises the risk or are there other factors at play?

Cardiovascular disease is complex, and there are many contributing factors that traffic noise may intensify.

Traffic can lead to higher levels of stress which is a risk factor and can also raise blood pressure. Those noise may also impact sleep, which is also a risk factor.

Also, areas with high traffic often have more air pollution which can affect cardiovascular health.

Q:  For many people, it’s not feasible to move out of their neighborhood just because it’s noisy. So what can they do to decrease their risk of heart attack?

Most can’t control the traffic around here they live, but there are many other factors that contribute to heart disease that they can control.

Don’t smoke, drink too heavily, eat a good diet and exercise. If traffic is keeping you up at night, get ear plugs or take other steps to reduce your exposure.

Practice stress relief techniques like yoga, meditation, exercise or simply finding time and a place where you can get some quiet.

About the author

David Winter, MD
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David Winter, MD, is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Signature Medicine – Tom Landry.

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Why Sitting in Traffic is Bad For Your Health