American Heart Month: Do Your Heart a Favor and Schedule Your Spring Break Vacay ASAP

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Forget kale, going on vacation is even better for your health regimen. And as February is American Heart Month, we can vouch for the heart-specific benefits of taking regular vacations But tell this to the average workaholic American and they’ll think you’re some kind of underachiever. It’s not that the average American wouldn’t like to take a vacation, but working is the only culture they know since they grew up with parents who either didn’t receive vacation time or were always too busy to take time off. What we’re seeing today are generations of children who grow up not knowing what to do with their leisure time because they never learned from their parents how to disconnect from the rat race. This, like secondhand smoke, could be slowly killing Americans.

CNN reported that when the researchers behind the Framingham Heart Study tracked workers over a 20-year period they found that “men who don’t take vacations were 30% more likely to have a heart attack and for women it went up to 50%.” Combine this data with the fact that the United States is the only first-world country without a single legally required paid vacation day and we´ve got ourselves a ticking bomb health-wise. Even worse was that those heart attack numbers held true even after researchers took into account other health factors such as smoking, diabetes, income levels, and obesity. CNN reported that the conclusions from the study have been backed up by other similar research studies as well. 

“This is real evidence that vacations are important to your physical health,” Elaine Eaker, a co-author of the Framingham Heart Study, told The New York Times.

The heart-healthy benefits of taking regular vacations are even more relevant for women, as heart disease is the leading killer of women in America, taking the lives of every 1 in 5 women according to the latest figures from the CDC.

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No-Vacation Nation

Nearly one in four Americans receive no paid vacation or holiday, according to the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). In contrast, every country in the European Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation, while Canada and Japan guarantee at least 10 days of paid vacation per year to their workers. Because vacation time isn’t mandated in the United States, it’s viewed as some kind of “bonus,” rather than one´s earned time off. 

What´s worrisome is that even when Americans are given a vacation by their employers, they don’t necessarily take them. A global study by Expedia.com found that about a third of employed Americans usually do not take all the vacation days that they are entitled to, leaving an average of three days on the table. 

Got to Get Away

Vacation time in a society is not only good for your heart, mind, and overall health, it is also a reminder that your career is not the be-all and end-all. Family time is also a plus, even when things go wrong on a vacation. In fact, those are the best memories to laugh at in the future. And if you are worried about the numbers and productivity, vacation time also seems to benefit businesses in the long run. For one, companies won’t have sicker, stressed, and less productive workers; generous vacation policies found in Western European countries haven’t been found to affect productivity either, according to CNBC.

Like getting your annual checkup, don’t even think of skipping your next vacation. Go ahead, disconnect from that screen and watch how much better you sleep and feel about life afterward.