Allison Wilson | HealthGreatness

It is no secret that Americans work a lot – perhaps too much. In fact, Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world, with longer workdays, fewer vacation days, and more recently, a later retirement. The Interestingly, the U.S. also has one of the highest rates of heart disease of developed countries, with 1 in 4 deaths attributed to the condition. While heart disease rates are not directly caused by an overworked society, there is a known connection between stress and heart health.

Traveling Keeps Your Heart Healthy

It may not be possible to stop working or eliminate all sources of stress from your daily life, but it is possible to take a temporary reprieve from the constant pressures of our daily responsibilities. Vacationing – something Americans are doing less and less of in recent years – helps people disconnect, unwind, and recharge. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of data to support the notion that taking vacation can significantly reduce one’s risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular death.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, vacations can improve health in multiple ways. Taking just one vacation every year reduces a person’s risk of heart attack by half. Among middle-aged men considered high risk for coronary heart disease, those who vacation frequently reduce their risk of heart attack by nearly one-third compared to those who do not. Even stay-at-home parents or spouses who do not work in traditional workplaces can benefit from periodic vacations. A Framingham heart study found that women who vacationed twice per year were far less likely to suffer a heart attack than women who only vacationed once every six years or less.

It is important to note that the length of a vacation or where it takes place are not relevant to its heart health advantages – only the frequency with which vacations are taken. So whether you spend a weekend at a ski lodge, take a cruise to the Caribbean or go camping a few towns over, you still benefit from the getaway. Just one or two days are enough to significantly reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones in the average person.

As an added bonus, people who vacation more frequently have lower stress levels that translate to better food choices back home. Not to mention, vacationing contributes to overall wellbeing, including lower rates of depression and better sleep – two factors that have been linked to heart disease.

Get the Most Out of Your Vacation

If you consider vacation more of a long-lost luxury than an essential priority, it may be time to pack your bags. The average American worker has access to two weeks of vacation time every year, but leaves at least a few days unused. Reclaim your vacation time, and use it to improve your heart health. Turn off your electronic devices, and leave work at the office. Go somewhere you can relax, be active, and engage with the people you care about. Your heart will thank you.