Take a va­ca­tion, your heart will thank you

Men with shorter va­ca­tions worked more and slept less than those who took longer va­ca­tions. This stress­ful life­style may have over­ruled any ben­e­fit of the in­ter­ven­tion.

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Wellness -

IF YOU’VE been en­joy­ing a lot of time off this sum­mer, a new anal­y­sis has good news: All that va­ca­tion­ing might lengthen your life. The find­ing comes from an up­dated re­view of data in a 1970s Fin­nish heart health study that fol­lowed roughly 1,200 mid­dle-aged men in their 40s and 50s for al­most four decades. All of the men were be­lieved to face a higher than av­er­age risk for heart dis­ease, and half of them were given five years of ad­vice re­gard­ing diet, weight, ex­er­cise, blood pres­sure, choles­terol and triglyc­eride lev­els. The other half was not of­fered any spe­cial health guid­ance.

Now, roughly 40 years later, it turns out that men who got the heart ad­vice but took only three weeks or less of va­ca­tion time each year were 37 per cent more likely to die, com­pared with those who took more than three weeks off a year. Study au­thor Dr Timo Strand­berg said the key take­away from the find­ings is that “in gen­eral, va­ca­tion -- if you en­joy it -- is good for health.” Why? Strand­berg said that while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion didn’t track the men’s stress lev­els, “stress, with mul­ti­ple ef­fects in the hu­man body, would be a good can­di­date” to ex­plain why those who didn’t take much va­ca­tion had worse out­comes over­all.

Strand­berg is a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ties of Helsinki and Oulu and at Helsinki Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal in

Fin­land. The long-run­ning

Fin­nish study ini­tially found that those who re­ceived heart health ad­vice saw their risk for heart dis­ease plum­met by 46 per cent by the end of a five-year pe­riod, com­pared with the group that got no life­style ad­vice. But a sec­ond anal­y­sis -- com­pleted roughly 15 years later -un­ex­pect­edly re­vealed that more peo­ple in the ad­vice group had ac­tu­ally ended up dy­ing (by 1990) than in the non-ad­vice group.

Now, the third anal­y­sis -- which tracked mor­tal­ity up un­til 2014 -- found that over the first 30 years fol­low­ing the study launch (un­til 2004), the death rate among those who had been given heart ad­vice con­tin­ued to be con­sis­tently greater than among those given no ad­vice. The death rate be­tween 2004 and 2014 did, how­ever, even out, Strand­berg noted. To bet­ter un­der­stand the ear­lier mor­tal­ity pat­tern, Strand­berg de­cided to ex­am­ine va­ca­tion habits dur­ing the pe­riod of time when death rates were higher among the guid­ance group (1974-2004).

That led to the dis­cov­ery that dur­ing that 30-year time frame death rates were 37 per cent higher among those in the heart guid­ance group who had taken only three or fewer weeks of va­ca­tion each year. Strand­berg fur­ther noted that those “men with shorter va­ca­tions worked more and slept less than those who took longer va­ca­tions. This stress­ful life­style may have over­ruled any ben­e­fit of the in­ter­ven­tion. We think the in­ter­ven­tion it­self may also have had an ad­verse psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect on these men by adding stress to their lives.”

But the study only found an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween va­ca­tion time and death rates, not cause and ef­fect. As to whether the pro­tec­tive as­pect of longer va­ca­tions might also ap­ply to women, Strand­berg said it is a “very dif­fi­cult ques­tion,” though he sug­gested that it likely would. Dr Sana Al-Khatib, a pro­fes­sor of medicine and car­di­ol­ogy-elec­tro­phys­i­ol­ogy with Duke Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre in Durham, North Carolina, sug­gested that the find­ings might have to be taken “with a grain of salt. “While this is an in­ter­est­ing study and the find­ings may make sense, I am a bit wor­ried about how the anal­y­sis was done,” she cau­tioned.

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