WASHINGTON – Your commute might kill you, even if it’s as short as the distance from Largo, Bethesda or Springfield into the center of Washington D.C.
Long morning or evening drives to work, which WTOP reported Monday are more likely in D.C. than anywhere else in the country, can lead to a proportionately higher risk of serious illnesses, according to a study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
The study differs from previous findings on how a stressful commute detracts from overall health in its measure of thresholds. This study looked at 4,300 people in Texas and compared the degree to which they became ill compared to the length of their trips to and from work.
“Grueling, long commutes raise health risks that can lead to heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” says Barry Bagnato, CBS News correspondent.
As few as 10 miles or longer can raise high blood pressure risk, says Bagnato of the study. Commuters who drive 15 miles or more are more likely not meeting recommended levels of “heart-healthy physical activity,” and are obese.
“It’s just part of dealing with aggressive drivers all the time,” he says. “You have a tough time keeping that blood pressure down if you’re cut off by somebody, or sitting in a long line of traffic.”
The problem is compounded by the difficulty most commuters face in changing their habits. A living room couch potato can easily get up and move, says Bagnato, but everyone has to get to work.
He suggests finding creative ways to be active while at work to offset the negative effects of the commute.
“Get up, walk a bit,” Bagnato says. “You can also help yourself by resisting the urge to eat a lot in the car.”