The travel chaos experienced by many so far this summer might deter others from vacationing, but I sincerely hope that is not the case.

DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: A vacation is more than just a break…it can do wonders for your heart

Winding queues just to get into an airport, day-long waits to get on a ferry, last-minute cancellations, train strikes. The travel chaos experienced by many so far this summer might deter others from vacationing, but I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Taking a vacation isn’t just a chance to get away from it all; studies have found unexpected benefits, so much so that scholars from Edith Cowan University in Australia published a paper last month arguing that we should view vacations not as leisure but as “travel therapy”.

They say getaways can be particularly beneficial for your brain, as they provide sensory and cognitive stimulation, and could be considered an “intervention” for people with dementia, for example, much like exercise or art therapy.

One of the most obvious benefits I get from leaving is that I sleep better. Normally, I wake up around 3 am to go to the bathroom, then I often have trouble getting back to sleep. But when I’m on vacation, I find it much easier to go back.

The travel chaos experienced by many so far this summer might deter others from vacationing – but I sincerely hope that is not the case

And that seems to be quite common. In a 2006 study in New Zealand, a group of volunteers who were about to leave were subjected to a battery of tests and then asked to wear wrist-mounted sleep monitors. After a few days of vacation, the researchers found that the volunteers received, on average, an extra hour of good quality sleep each night, compared to a normal night. And their mood and reaction times also improved.

This is probably partly due to the fact that after a few days of vacation you tend to feel less stressed (unless, of course, you’ve also lost your luggage…), but it could also be due to Sleeping in a different bed and in a different environment helps break some of the negative bonds poor sleepers have with their bed at home.

Poor sleep can sometimes become like a phobia – you learn to associate going to bed with waking up at 3am and staying awake. The more this happens, the more likely it is to continue.

Being on vacation, in a different place, can break this negative association. And it may persist after you return.

Another important benefit of vacations is the impact they have on your heart. In 2019, researchers from Syracuse University in the United States invited 63 people to a lab where they underwent blood tests. They also filled in details of vacations they had taken in the previous year.

Poor sleep can sometimes become like a phobia - you learn to associate going to bed with waking up at 3am and staying awake.  The more this happens, the more likely it is to continue.  Being on vacation, in a different place, can break this negative association

Poor sleep can sometimes become like a phobia – you learn to associate going to bed with waking up at 3am and staying awake. The more this happens, the more likely it is to continue. Being on vacation, in a different place, can break this negative association

The researchers were specifically testing for metabolic syndrome, a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, and a larger waistline. If you have metabolic syndrome, you are at high risk of heart attack or stroke.

Among the volunteers, some had taken many short breaks, others had taken none.

It turned out that the risk of getting metabolic syndrome fell by nearly a quarter for every additional vacation people took. Bryce Hruska, a psychological stress expert, who led the study, pointed out that while we don’t yet know why going on vacation is so good for our hearts, studies show it clearly is.

He added that despite the fact that Americans are generally only entitled to ten days of paid vacation per year, “less than half use all the time they have.”

This trend also exists in the UK. Even before the onset of the current travel chaos, surveys have found nearly one in three UK workers say they don’t take their entire holiday every year due to work pressure and worries that more will pile up simply during his absence. I think that’s a big mistake, given the benefits a break can bring.

But what type of vacation is right for you? Although you don’t need to visit a tropical hotspot (I’m holidaying on the south coast of the UK this year), the evidence suggests you should head to the sea.

A study published last year in the journal Scientific Reports, which surveyed more than 16,000 people, found that those who said they had visited the coast in the past month reported higher happiness rates and lower mental distress than those who did not. I’m not surprised. I love walking by the sea. Just sitting on the beach, listening to the waves, puts me in a state of relaxation. And this connection that we have with blue spaces goes back tens of thousands of years.

When our ancestors began to spread around the world, they went along the coast or up the rivers, staying close to the water. So I can’t help but think that our love of the sea runs deep.

Wherever you’re going this summer, I hope your trip is hassle-free, and even if it isn’t, keep in mind the benefits you’ll get once your vacation really begins.

Stop the illegal sale of vapes to children

A few years ago, I made a documentary about vaping and asked the question: are e-cigarettes a miracle or a threat? I concluded that vaping is less harmful than smoking, but by no means harmless if you don’t smoke.

This is why I am concerned about the recent increase in vaping among children.

I’ve never smoked, but as part of the documentary I started vaping for a month to see what impact it would have.

For those who haven’t tried it, an e-cigarette contains a battery that powers a heating element, which turns a liquid containing nicotine and flavorings into a vapor, which you then inhale. There is no burn and therefore fewer harmful chemicals than in traditional cigarettes.

At first I coughed a lot, but after a while I started enjoying the “hit”, which felt like a cup of strong coffee. I had no cravings and, after a month, I was happy to quit.

A few years ago, I made a documentary about vaping and asked the question: are e-cigarettes a miracle or a threat?  I concluded that vaping is less harmful than smoking, but in no way harmless if you don't smoke.

A few years ago, I made a documentary about vaping and asked the question: are e-cigarettes a miracle or a threat? I concluded that vaping is less harmful than smoking, but in no way harmless if you don’t smoke.

Although there were signs of increased inflammation in my lungs, these quickly disappeared when I finished the experiment. After talking to many scientists, I concluded that vaping is much safer than smoking and likely to do more good than harm, as the devices can help people quit smoking.

But I had underestimated the growing power of social media. In the UK it is illegal to sell vapes to those under 18 and there are strict rules on how they can be advertised.

But despite this, a recent YouGov survey of 11-17 year olds found that the number of regular vapers has almost doubled in the past two years, from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022. The proportion of children who admitted to having tried vaping also increased from 14% to 16%.

And the biggest influence? Social media. Almost half said they started after watching vaping videos on TikTok, Instagram or Snapchat.

The only good news is that smoking rates among children have declined over this period.

It is high time the government enforced existing laws and cracked down on illegal vape sales to children.

If you have hay fever, are you having symptoms for longer this year?

I am allergic to grass pollen but normally in July I stopped sneezing. This year, however, I’m going again.

Some scientists believe that the extended season may be due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or because we are exposed to more air pollution, which may increase the allergic reaction. Anyway, it looks like I’ll have to carry my antihistamine pills around a bit longer.

Why life is sweet with less sugar

If I could go back in time and offer one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to take better care of my teeth.

After another visit to the dentist, I can now look forward to further root canal work. To avoid it, I would advise my old self to cut back on soft drinks and fruit juices, and eat my sweets all at once, not spread out over the day. That way my enamel would have a better chance of surviving, because the bacteria in my mouth turn sugar into acid.

I would also suggest replacing some of the gummies with sugar-free gum with xylitol, which has an antimicrobial effect and generates saliva to remove acid. And I would warn him about dried fruit, which is high in sugar and sticks to the teeth, and the enamel hazards of eating crisps, which turn to sugar and acid in the mouth.

I urge her to floss, brush her teeth twice a day, and get regular checkups to catch the cavity early.

If young Michael had done all of this, older Michael would have been spared a lot of pain and expense.

I urge him to floss, as well as brush his teeth twice a day, and get regular checkups, to catch the cavity early.

I urge him to floss, as well as brush his teeth twice a day, and get regular checkups, to catch the cavity early.

#MICHAEL #MOSLEY #vacation #break…it #wonders #heart

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