Want to live heart-attack free — and to spend that life doing fun stuff other than fighting traffic? Don’t drive so much. That’s the short conclusion I’ve come to after reading the green headlines of the day, of which the most striking is this one from Grist: “Sitting in traffic triggers more heart attacks than eating, alcohol, cocaine, and sex.”
In the post, Grist’s Christopher Mims reports on a study published in the medical journal The Lancet — which has the much more boring title of Public health importance of triggers of myocardial infarction: a comparative risk assessment — and boils down the news coverage of that study. The gist? Sure, snorting cocaine will seriously up your individual risk of a heart attack, but legal and more common everyday activities like sitting in traffic have a much bigger effect on the general population, making wasting time in a traffic snarl one of the most dangerous activities for the heart.
What about greener commuters who still have to contend with traffic? One alarming headline from the Mail UK reads “Why cycling to work is one of the biggest causes of heart attacks” — but cyclists should not let that headline convince them to suddenly swap their two pedals for the gas pedal. The Mail first scares bicycle riders by noting that “cyclists are in greatest danger because they are more heavily exposed to pollution and are subjecting themselves to another major heart attack trigger, exercise” — but then goes on to give a bigger picture of cyclists’ health later on in the article:
Judy O’Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the benefits of exercising outdoors outweighed the risks from air pollution for most individuals, and urged people not to be put off running, walking or cycling in towns and cities.