CINCINNATI—The end of the summer is approaching and with it the season for trips and getaways from the "real world.”
If you’ve been putting off that summer vacation because of work or home projects, a UC Health cardiologist says you may be risking your health.
Angel López-Candales, MD, professor in the division of cardiovascular diseases, director of echocardiography and medical director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at UC Health University Hospital, says research points to the cardiovascular benefits of taking an occasional holiday.
"Stress changes the way blood clots in the body, which increases the risk of heart attack. Furthermore, anxiety and mental stress are well-recognized triggers for adverse cardiovascular events,” López-Candales says.
"For example, heart attacks occur less frequently on Sundays while more frequently on Mondays in working people, correlating with increased stress levels associated with returning to work. In a similar fashion, tension, sadness or frustration double the likelihood of poor blood flow to heart muscle, causing chest pain or angina.
”Work typically causes some sort of stress to employees, and it’s important to get away from that mental and emotional pressure.”
Studies cited in a recent CNN.com article showed that men at high risk for coronary heart disease, and who failed to take annual vacations, were 32 percent more susceptible to dying from a heart attack. Another study that compared women who vacationed at least twice a year to those who took one every six years or less found that those who did not vacation annually were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack.
López-Candales cites studies that link vacation time to better heart health and improved mood, adding that the benefits are likely enhanced in the case of vacationers who have reported very high levels of pre-vacation mental stress.
In addition, he says vacation is typically linked to increased physical activity—walking during a tour of monuments or running and playing in the ocean—which is an obvious positive to keeping your heart and your body healthy.
"However, while it is better to enjoy exercise, a study from Indiana University and Rutgers showed that over two decades, non-leisure physical activity was associated with a substantial reduction in death from any cause,” he says. "Really, by engaging in healthy activities, including abstaining from smoking, consuming a healthy diet and engaging in sufficient physical activity, a person can greatly reduce risks for early death.”
López-Candales says a person’s job may not allow him or her to take vacation but even taking time for themselves by engaging in a healthy hobby, taking time to go to the gym or spending quality time with loved ones could greatly improve health—mentally and physically.
"Overall, I recommend choosing a healthy lifestyle—including exercise—and doing the things that keep you happy and free from stress for a better, longer life, and if your job allows it, take some time off for a vacation, whether that be a trip to a museum, the lake or even just a chance to sleep in and hang around the house,” he says. "Taking care of and making time for yourself can make a huge difference on health outcomes.”