SEARCHING for the fountain of youth could be tedious, but if you really want it, a long life is actually within your grasp – take a vacation and relax.
The real secret to long life, according to a new study, is not only through healthy lifestyle but taking a vacation is actually a big factor.
Researchers believed that practicing healthy lifestyle is not enough to compensate working too hard without taking holidays. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress,” said Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, Finland.
The study involved participants with at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, glucose intolerance, overweight).
The participants were divided into controlled group and an intervention group.
The intervention group received oral and written advice every four months to do aerobic physical activity, eat a healthy diet, achieve a healthy weight, and stop smoking.
When health advice alone was not effective, men in the intervention group also received drugs recommended at that time to lower blood pressure (beta-blockers and diuretics) and lipids (clofibrate and probucol). Men in the control group received usual healthcare and were not seen by the investigators.
As previously reported, the risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced by 46 percent in the intervention group compared to the control group by the end of the trial.
The analysis presented before European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress extended the mortality follow-up to 40 years (2014) using national death registers and examined previously unreported baseline data on amounts of work, sleep, and vacation.
The researchers found that the death rate was consistently higher in the intervention group compared to the control group until 2004. Death rates were the same in both groups between 2004 and 2014.
Shorter vacations were associated with excess deaths in the intervention group. In the intervention group, men who took three weeks or less annual vacation had a 37 percent greater chance of dying than those who took more than three weeks. Vacation time had no impact on risk of death in the control group.
“The harm caused by the intensive lifestyle regime was concentrated in a subgroup of men with shorter yearly vacation time. In our study, 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,” said Professor Strandberg
Professor Strandberg noted that stress management was not part of preventive medicine in the 1970s but is now recommended for individuals with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease. In addition, more effective drugs are now available to lower lipids (statins) and blood pressure (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers).
“Our results do not indicate that health education is harmful. Rather, they suggest that stress reduction is an essential part of programs aimed at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle advice should be wisely combined with modern drug treatment to prevent cardiovascular events in high-risk individuals,” Professor Strandberg stressed.