Is your daily commute wrecking your health? - CBS46 News

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Is your daily commute wrecking your health?

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When it comes to road rage, few cities are worse than Atlanta.

The city is consistently ranked as having some of the worst traffic congestion and rudest drivers in the country.

Nobody knows better than "Pothole Harry" Samler just how aggravating Atlanta traffic can be, so CBS Atlanta News sent him on a mission to find out what chronic road rage is doing to our bodies.

Wired up to a heart rate recorder and cameras mounted on the windshield, Samler drove around in search of situations that tick drivers off. He was asked to push a button on the recorder when he felt tense.

Right out of the gate, he was stressed when he realized he couldn't make a left turn. Then on the highway, a distracted driver going 15 mph under the speed limit got under his skin. By the time he got to the office, his nerves were fried - especially when he discovered he'd left his wallet at home.

Even when Samler's in the passenger seat, his photographer's frustration appeared to be contagious. At one point, he rolled the window down to yell at a motorist in front of him who was blocking traffic.

Samler met with Dr. Thaddeus Pace, a stress biologist with The Emory Mind Body Program, to find out what a stressful commute does to our bodies.

"When you hit the button that first time, in that minute or so after you hit the button, your heart rate went up dramatically," Pace told Samler.

Pace said the chronic anxiety may eventually be the death of us.

"If you're in traffic and your heart rate goes up in a big, big way, your inflammatory response may get set off, too. And that's associated with lots of things that are maybe not so good for you long term, like cardiovascular disease, maybe even type 2 diabetes." He added, "You may not see much over the course of a year or two, but ... over the course of 10 years or maybe even longer, you may just slightly but significantly tip your risk for some of these stress-related illnesses."

Pace suggested meditation (while you're not driving), taking deep breaths and even forcing a smile to calm down.

"Taking a breath, inhaling and exhaling over the course of five seconds and doing that maybe five times or so for a few minutes can really be good for you," Pace said.

He also recommended listening to soothing music or an audio book to ease the tension.

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