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The ties that stress the heart

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What stresses you out most during the holidays? Hosting family get-togethers? Buying gifts? All that wrapping? Or all that pressure from family and friends (not to mention yourself!) to plan the perfect memory? It’s been well documented that social ties can improve heart health, but the worry often caused by family and friends can hurt you.

I recently came across a study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, performed by Dr. Rikke Lund at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, which says that family stress can increase angina. Moreover, the closer you are to the person, the more damage they can do.

With the pressure of shopping, finances, and family get-togethers, nervous tension is especially on the rise during the holiday season. As most parents are running around trying to plan the perfect holiday, it’s a recipe for tension.

Interestingly, according to the study, the more you care about the person, the more your health is affected. This makes two key categories prime to induce stress: spouses and kids. But which stresses you out more?

“When the source of these worries/demands was a spouse or partner, the angina risk was increased more than threefold, while for children it was more than twofold. Other family members nearly doubled angina risk. By contrast, excessive demands or worries caused by more distant family relations or from friends and neighbors were associated with little or no risk.”

Since angina may be a risk for future heart disease, it makes sense to let things slide over the holidays, rather than allowing yourself to become stressed.

Does this study beckon the questions, who are parents closer to: their spouse or their children? Maybe. But perhaps moms and dads just don’t get as stressed out by their own kids, because they are just that: kids. After all, when a spouse does something inconsiderate or ill-mannered, as an adult, he is held responsible. Kids, however, to a certain extent, are released of that culpability.

On the contrary, the good news is that the less you care about someone, the smaller chance they have of risking your health. So eat, drink, and be merry this holiday season, and when the snide remarks surface from in-laws or acquaintances, just let them roll right off your shoulder — and away from your heart.

Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find Sullivan on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.

Updated 4:55 pm, July 9, 2018
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