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Shift Work Can Lead to Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

August 8, 2012
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General Hospital: Night Shift (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to results of a new study published in the BMJ, working the night shift or any odd-hours shift other than a regular day schedule may increase your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Research in the past decades has already linked shift work to an increased incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol– defining what we call the metabolic syndrome, a recipe for cardiovascular disease.

The meta-analysis in the BMJ pooled data from 34 studies, examining the records of more than 2 million patients. The study clearly demonstrated an increased incidence of heart attack and stroke in people working odd- hour, rotating, and night shifts. This relationship is most likely causal in nature, but it difficult to conclude based on purely observational studies alone.

The exact mechanism which leads to increase risk for heart attack and stroke is likely related to disruption of the sleep-wake cycle, or the body’s natural circadian rhythm–ultimately linked to a disruption in the morning cortisol rise. Shift workers are also more likely to eat an unhealthy diet (high in carbohydrates and fats) or smoke to compensate for their lack of sleep. In addition, shift workers often don’t get enough exercise due to fatigue and low energy levels.

The study defined shift work as night shifts, rotating shifts, split shifts, or any non-daytime schedule. What emerged from the study was that people who worked the night shift had the highest risk for heart attack and stroke, especially in the first 10-15 years of employment.

Compared to people who worked the day shift, shift workers were nearly 23% more likely to suffer a heart attack, and 5% more likely to have a stroke. Interestingly, however, the study also demonstrated that even in light of these added risks, shift workers were not more likely to die compared to dayshift workers. These findings were still unchanged even when the investigators controlled for unhealthy behaviors including lack of exercise, poor diet, and smoking.

The take-away message for shift workers is essentially to focus on maximizing cardiovascular health: Know your risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke by having frequent check-ups with your physician. You should have your physician focus on your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, waist circumference, waist-to hip ratio, and fasting blood sugar which reflects your risk for diabetes.

Tips for shift workers:

1. Exercise aerobically 30 minutes to 1 hour per day
2. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and healthy foods low in sugar and fat
3. Quit smoking
4. Learn to take breaks at work: meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises
5. Sleep in a cool, dark room if you work the night shift

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2012/07/27/shift-work-can-lead-to-increase-risk-of-heart-attack-and-stroke/

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Related posts:

  1. Night shift work linked to diabetes: 3 ways to minimize risk
  2. Rotating Shift Work May Boost Women’s Diabetes Risk
  3. Night shift work may raise diabetes risk
  4. High blood pressure in middle age raises risk of heart attack or stroke
  5. Treating Prehypertension Lowers Stroke Risk: Study
  6. Cold Air May Raise Heart-Attack Risk During Exercise
  7. Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Disease in Men
  8. Middle-Aged Blood Pressure and Stroke Risk
  9. Treating Prehypertension With Medication May Lower Stroke Risk
  10. Drugs reduce stroke risk in patients with above average blood pressure

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