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Vacation Might Change Your Gene Activity, According To New Study

Vacation Might Change Your Gene Activity, According To New Study

Most people’s lives are filled with high stress—the pressure of meeting deadlines, battling with colleagues and angry customers, or simply the monotonous, but demanding, day-to-day grind. Their minds and bodies are coiled up, defensive and taut.

A relaxing vacation in a resort-like atmosphere can allow your body to lower its guards, get out of the defensive posture, and unwind. The reduction in stress levels can positively affect the immune system cells at a molecular level.

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Relaxation versus Meditation

A study was conducted to compare the benefits of just relaxing in a pleasant locality with attending a meditation retreat in the same place. Improvements were seen in many cellular markers in the blood including better stress regulation and immune function. [1]

The researchers continued to measure the gene activity and blood markers, and they discovered that there was a large and immediate “vacation effect” in all the candidates. The benefits were seen even ten months later in the participants who continued meditating.

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Senior author Dr. Eric Schadt, founding director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai in New York, revealed that on a relaxing vacation, stress levels are reduced, and this in turn affects the states of cells that are involved in your immune system. Schadt told Reuters Health that at the molecular level, additional changes only happened, or happened more, in the meditation group, including more effective manufacture and use of proteins. He said “We don’t know what this means exactly, but given associations with biomarkers of aging, there is the potential that these changes could enhance overall wellbeing and longevity.” [2]

How the Study was Done

102 women between the ages of 30 to 60 participated in this study in which their blood was tested before and after five days at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California.

A third of these candidates were regular meditators who had already booked the retreat. Half of the remaining 70 non-meditators were randomly assigned to meditation or yoga programs, while the remaining ones were assigned to just vacation and relax. Reports were collected from these women concerning their depression symptoms, stress, vitality and mindfulness on day five, one month later and 10 months later.

The Study Results

At the end of the retreat, gene-expression changes and aging biomarkers in blood samples had improved significantly for all groups. This indicates the benefits of simply being on vacation. For all three groups, the psychological well-being scores improved by day five and one month later. The candidates who had meditated during their vacation had bigger reductions in their depressive symptoms and stress at the 10-month point compared to the ones who had only been on vacation.

Telomerase is an enzyme that repairs and fortifies the tips of chromosomes. Telomeres grows shorter and shorter as age progresses. The regular meditators in the study group showed a higher activity of the enzyme telomerase. The results of the study indicate that vacation and meditation seemed to turn down defense response, inflammation response, and innate immune response. Schadt said, “Of course you want these pathways activated if they are fighting off a disease, but if they are continually activated we have seen that they are partially responsible for increasing susceptibility to a whole range of diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.”

Limitations of the Study

The researchers acknowledged that there are several limitations to this study, which was funded by The Chopra Foundation and Benioff Foundation.

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“It’s not clear if a weeklong vacation or meditation sessions would lead to changes in corresponding diseases. I don’t know that our results are such that they would speak to changes people should make in their lives to achieve a more healthy state, but rather it is another strong piece of evidence that relaxing and meditating may produce favorable healthy benefits,” Schadt said.

 Conclusion

Irrespective of these study results, there is no doubt that high levels of continuous stress is harmful to our bodies, especially our immune system, and that reducing stress is definitely beneficial to our health. There are many things you can incorporate into your daily life to boost your immune system. Find ways to de-stress, massages with aromatic oils are a great way to relax, and essential oils like tea tree oil help stimulate the immune system and ward off colds and flus. Whenever you can find the time, enjoy a relaxing vacation in a great resort at a beautiful locality. It will surely lift your spirits, if not your immune system.

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Reference

More by this author

Anju Mobin

Anju is a Certified Nutritionist, and a Highly Experienced Health, Fitness and Nutrition Writer.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

More Health Tips

Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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