Driving Stress

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Woodmen and I-25 construction. Morning and evening rush hours. It’s all “driving” stress! Americans spend on average 101 minutes per day driving. The top two times of the week for “road rage” are Friday afternoons, as people get ready for the weekend, and Wednesday mornings.

We decided to scientifically explain how stressed out you get when you’re driving in tough traffic. And what we discovered may give you a little fuel for thought. You may want to “de-stress” a little before you get behind the wheel.

In this experiment, we hooked up Michael DeWald to an EKG heart monitor and a blood pressure monitor. Then, he started driving. “I can not picture people driving in this every day,” he said as he pulled into traffic on I-25. Michael, like millions of Americans, has hypertension.

Before the drive, Michael's blood pressure reading was 162/47. That's a little high. When he got into areas of congestion, or when people in front of him had the brake lights on, he really had to slow down. His heart jumped up over 100 beats per minute.

After driving around for 45 minutes, Michael pulled off the road for another reading. He said the most stressful part was traveling southbound on I-25. Once the car was stopped, his blood pressure quickly dropped down to 144/79. And then after a few minutes, even better results: 120/80 and his pulse was 80.

The next driver was KKTV’s Eric Singer. He agreed---the most stressful part of driving was the stop-and-go traffic. Because he doesn’t suffer from hypertension, his body could handle the stress better than Michael’s with no dramatic swings in blood pressure or heart rate.

Letting stress overcome you on a regular basis can affect the way your body handles the road of life. It could make you more susceptible to infections. And if your blood pressure stays up constantly, that could lead to heart disease.

“Driving stress,” like any stress, can be handled with planning. If you know what triggers it, alter your behavior. If you can, leave earlier to avoid rush hour. Take a different route to avoid that cone zone that bugs you. And “fine tune” your body with a better diet, maintain a good weight and exercise.