How a traffic jam is bad for your heart

There is the stress of watching the clock countdown to your next appointment as you are stuck bumper to bumper. There is a decrease in physical activity amongst those who end up having to spend long periods of time in their car, commuting to work. And if anxiety and lack of exercise weren't enough, there is another element to consider—one that affects even those cycling through the gridlock or walking across the street.  This final element concerns the environment and its impact on our heart health, and is the theme of this year’s World Heart Day on 29 September.

Today, up to 90% of Europeans are exposed to levels of air and noise pollution that exceed recommended standards of the World Health Organization. More than any other area of health, this impacts on cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). To raise awareness of this issue at the European level, a campaign has been launched by the European Society of Cardiology, the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR) and the European Heart Network (EHN) focusing on a healthy environment for a healthy heart.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the consequences of air and noise pollution on heart health, and for good cause: Did you know that noise pollution increases one’s risk of hypertension? Or that the higher levels of air pollution in Central and Eastern Europe are amplifying inequalities in geographical spread of CVDs? You can learn more, and join us in signing the campaign’s call to action, to be presented to the European Commissioners for Health, Environment, Climate Change, and Transport in Brussels on 29 September.

The equation is quite simple: CVDs including heart disease and stroke are the number one killer in Europe, and responsible each day for the death of 10,000 people worldwide; improving the environment will save millions of people from preventable illnesses.

Cardiovascular diseases are not the only place where a healthy environment can go a long way. Holistically – from low levels of pollution to healthy food options in the places we live and work, from access to clean water to reducing the wide-ranging disruptive consequences of climate change – healthier environments mean healthier people.

This is why we support the World Heart Day call to action. Our core mission at Lilly is to make medicines that make people live longer, healthier and more active lives. But we always advocate that whenever possible, certainly in the face of Europe’s high incidences of cancer, diabetes and CVDs, we must seize every opportunity to stop diseases before they can even begin.

And together with calling for improved policies to tackle this issue, we can each take steps to make our own environments more healthy:  increasing physical activity, frequenting smoke-free spaces, having a healthy snack at work and avoiding getting stuck in traffic – if anyone needed another reason.