Is your commute bad for your health?

(WUSA9) -- Whether you are taking the Metro or crawling on the Beltway, you know that getting around in this area is truly a nightmare. We wanted to know whether traffic stress will really make your heart "skip a beat."

"Traffic is becoming one of the defining elements of the Washington region," says Dr. Thomas Wise. "So it's becoming a major stress for many people in the metropolitan area."

Commuters often admit that traffic is getting on our nerves. We decided to do an unscientific test, to find out how much our commutes affects us physically.

We placed an EKG monitor on Delwin Hawkins to keep track of his heart rate. We also strapped on a blood pressure cuff.
It should be noted that Hawkins' systolic number is in the normal range. His diastolic reading, however, is high. At 8:23 in the morning, his blood pressure is 121 over 95. (I have shot of monitor)

"It's raining, so I'm sure the drivers will be extremely cautious slash scared, and they will create more traffic," Hawkins says sarcastically.

It didn't take long for Hawkins to come to a complete halt. "We are coming to a stop and I am 2 minutes into my commute," says Hawkins.

So we took another blood pressure reading. It was 136 over 93, which puts Hawkins near the overall hypertension mark.

"It's definitely stressful on the day-to-day," admits Hawkins.

As the traffic starts to move, his blood pressure drops slightly, down to 131 over 93. At 9:12 a.m. we arrive at Hawkins' office, and he starts to relax. His systolic number goes back down to 128 but the diastolic is actually higher at 97.

We took the EKG monitor to a technician. The device tracked Hawkins' heart rate throughout the day.

"We can see there that during the morning hours between 8:15 and 10:15 to be precise, his pulse accelerated to up to 116 beats per minute," says Vita Wooten.

" So there are things we need to know about as far as stress of driving and physical health, but we do know that there clearly seem to be changes already that we can extrapolate that could potentially affect your health," adds Wise.

Shortly after the morning commute, Hawkins' pulse dropped back down to a maximum of 87 beats per minute and later to 91.

The ride home was relatively smooth, a lot of commuters had left early because of snow. Hawkins' heart rate was steady the whole time.

"I can't believe I got home in 20 minutes on a Monday," remarks Hawkins.

His blood pressure didn't fluctuate much, showing 128 over 90.

Experts say wide ranging studies are still needed to make a more solid link between traffic problems and overall stress. If you have a daily traffic issue that really makes your blood boil, tell us about it. Go to, and we can try to find a solution to your traffic headache.


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