This article was taken from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/28/gps-should-prescribe-holidays-help-patients-risk-heart-disease/
Holidays should be prescribed by GPs to help people at risk of heart disease live longer, new research shows.
Heart experts said doctors should recommend a break to middle-aged patients trying to overhaul their health – not just tick them off about bad habits.
The 40-year study found that such patients were a third more likely to die young if they took less than three weeks off each year.
The Finnish research involved 1,200 businessmen who were at risk of heart disease because of their weight, or signs of high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Half were given strict advice to lose weight, take up exercise and put on standard medications.
But the study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, found those given the warnings were slightly more likely to die young than those who had been left to their own devices.
Scientists said the attempts at lifestyle overhauls may have raised their stress levels – doing more harm than good. However, among this group, men who took plenty of holidays lived far longer than those who did not.
Those who took less than three weeks holiday annually were 37 per cent more likely to die young over the next 30 years.
Lead researcher Professor Timo Strandberg, from Helsinki University, said GPs should prescribe holidays to those who had fallen into unhealthy habits, rather than heap guilt on patients who had fallen into bad habits.
“A businessman with a high status in society goes to the doctor and the doctor says you must reduce weight and stop smoking, and if you can’t do it you get stressed,” he said.
The difference between the group who took plenty of holidays, and those who did not was “clear and significant”, he said.
“The men who had shorter vacations – which means less than three weeks annually – had higher mortality than those who had longer vacations,” he said.
“Aggressive lifestyle modifications bring increased stress and may be unhealthy for individuals who are vulnerable.”
“Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays. Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”
Those who took less holiday worked more and slept less than those who took plenty of time off work, he added.
Professor Joep Perk, spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology, said people need to relax, as well as try to be healthy.
Too often those who were given a wake-up call about their health became “fanatical” about their lifestyles, he said.
“There is a lot of stress, they run around. I sometimes wonder whether is this healthy, and this study shows the enormous stress of changing lifestyle may have a bad effect on some people.
“Asking 95 year old people what was the reason they reached 95, almost always the response I get was ‘I enjoyed life, I had a nice time’. It’s not about chasing risk factors. Don’t forget to enjoy life, you only have one.”
At a glance | Heart disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is caused by the build-up of fatty substances on the walls of the arteries around the heart. The build-up of these fatty deposits make the arteries narrower, restricting the flow of blood to the heart. This process is called atherosclerosis.
This can be caused by a number of lifestyle factors and conditions, including smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Other risk factors include obesity and family history of CHD.
Symptoms can include:
- Chest pain – this can be a mild, uncomfortable feeling similar to indigestion.
- If the arteries become completely blocked by a build-up of fat it can cause a heart attack
- Heart palpitations
- Unusual breathlessness
Treating heart disease:
There is no cure for heart disease but treatment can help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of any further problems. The main treatments are:
- Lifestyle changes – more exercise, healthy eating and stopping smoking can help prevent further effects of CHD.
- Medicines – they aim to reduce blood pressure and to widen arteries, these include beta-blockers, nitrates and calcium channel blockers.
- Surgery – If symptoms cannot be controlled by lifestyle changes or medication there are surgical procedures to open up or bypass blocked arteries.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Everyone is affected by stress. Some thrive on it but, for others, extreme or prolonged stress can prove detrimental to their heart health.
“Stress may be a trigger for smoking, drinking more alcohol and eating unhealthily, which in turn increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease – the most common cause of a heart attack.
“Taking time out can be a great way to relieve tension, but you can also talk to friends and family and use your support network to share any troubles.
“Adopting a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can also help, but it’s important any changes are sustainable and don’t become another source of stress.
“If you’re worried about how your stress levels might be impacting your heart health, you should speak to your GP.”