Night shifts could increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than forty percent, warns a team of international researchers. People who work in night shifts also have higher levels of unhealthy behaviours such as eating junk food, not taking proper exercise and sleeping badly.
These unhealthy behaviours are associated with heart problems. Shift work has long been known to disturb the body clock that is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. However, on the whole the impact on cardiovascular health has been ambiguous. The researchers analysed results of thirty-four studies involving more two million people.
They investigate whether shift work was linked to major vascular events. The latest study is the biggest analysis of shift work and odds of vascular problems including heart attacks, strokes and angina. In total they found more than seventeen thousand people had some kind of coronary events, more than sixty-five hundred had heart attacks and more than eighteen hundred had ischaemic strokes.
All these events were more frequent among shift workers than other people. Shift work was linked to a twenty-three percent raise risk of heart attack, twenty-four percent rise in coronary events and five per cent extra strokes. These risks remained consistent even considering other aspects such as socioeconomic status and unhealthy behaviours in shift workers.
Night shifts were linked with the sheerest rise in risk of forty-one percent for coronary events. Daniel Hackam, Clinical Pharmacologist, Stroke Prevention & Atherosclerosis Research Centre (SPARC), London, Ontario, Canada, explained the comparative risks might emerge modest, but millions of people do shift work which means the overall risks are high.
The screening programmes could help identify and treat risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Shift workers should be educated about cardiovascular symptoms in an effort to forestall or avert the earliest clinical manifestations of disease, added Prof Hackam. The study was published on the British Medical Journal website bmj.com.
Ellen Mason, Senior Cardiac Nurse from the British Heart Foundation (BHF), stated although the associated increased risk to an individual shift worker was relatively small, many Brits do not work nine to five and so these findings becomes much more significant. Whether you work nights, evenings or regular office hours, eating healthily, getting active and quitting smoking can make a big difference to your heart health.