Entries in Work Shifts (3)


Late Shift Boosts Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More bad news for late-shift workers: Their odd hours may be raising their risk of heart attack and stroke.

So says a new, large-scale study in the British Medical Journal that adds these two problems -- which fit into a broader category known as vascular disease -- to the previously known risks of shift work. Previous research had suggested that working the graveyard shift, the swing shift or any irregular shift other than the traditional 9-to-5 is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

British and Canadian researchers analyzed the findings of 34 studies that included more than two million people who had work schedules including anything other than regular daytime hours. They found that shift work was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 5 percent increased risk of stroke. Those working night shifts seemed to be at the highest risk.

The study authors said it pays for workers to know that their jobs may put them at increased risk.

"The increased risk of vascular disease apparent in shift workers, regardless of its explanation, suggests that people who do shift work should be vigilant about risk factor modification," they wrote in the report.

A variety of factors -- not just the shift work itself -- could be culprit in increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke for people in those occupations. A lack of sleep, poor eating habits and lower levels of physical activity could plague those who work irregular hours and drive up the risk of vascular disease.

Dr. Robert Bonow, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and past president of the American Heart Association, said it's possible that people working jobs requiring shift work may be economically disadvantaged and have less access to health care -- two factors generally associated with unfavorable health outcomes.

However, the study authors noted that the increased risk of vascular events was still present even when they accounted for things like unhealthy eating, smoking and socioeconomic status -- evidence that something about the nature of shift work other than poor health behaviors might be at play.

But what could it be? One possibility is disruption in circadian rhythm, a feature inherent in shift work. These disruptions can certainly have an effect on heart rate and blood pressure -- two measures intimately tied to vascular health, said Dr. Carl Lavie, a cardiologist at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.

Since shift work is a necessary evil for more than a third of the working population, it is unreasonable to think that everyone can simply change their schedules.

"My advice would be to exercise and make sure their fitness is at a high level, and then I'd treat their risk factors vigorously," Lavie said. He added that if you are a shift worker it is important to recognize that treatments you might be getting for blood pressure control, weight control and cholesterol may be more important for you than someone at a lower risk.

Bonow agreed. "There's somewhat of a signal here, and people who do shift work should be aware that their risk factors should be identified and managed."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sleep Problems Linked to Obesity, Diabetes

Comstock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Lack of sleep puts people at greater risk of obesity and diabetes, a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine confirmed. Sporadic and irregular sleep may cause a decreased metabolic rate, which could contribute to weight gain and a myriad of long-term health problems.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that disrupted sleep patterns raised blood sugar levels and slowed the body’s metabolic rate, or the rate at which the body burns calories while at rest.

While several studies have analyzed sleep patterns in humans through observational epidemiological studies, this is the first to examine sleep behaviors in a completely controlled laboratory environment by mimicking jet lag and typical shift work sleep hours over a significant period of time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shift Work Might Lead to Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While shift workers are needed to help our 24-7 world go 'round, an editorial written by Dr. Virginia Barbour, chief editor of the journal PLoS Medicine, warned that such work schedules can put a person at increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

She even argued that unhealthy eating habits on the job should be considered an occupational health hazard.

"We have a long-standing interest in publishing on the diseases and risk factors that cause the highest burden of disease," Barbour told ABC News. "We would suggest that employers need to take unhealthy eating very seriously, to the extent that they consider that unhealthy foods are essentially environmental hazards and that they should consider what the implications are of exposing their employees to high levels of such hazards in the form of vending machines and fast-food restaurants."

In the editorial, Barbour cited a study that was published in the journal earlier this month that examined rotating night-shift work and the risk of type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease in which blood-sugar levels are abnormally high in the body.  Most people are overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis.

The study found that more than 11 percent of a participating nurse cohort reported doing shift work for more than 10 years, and the research results suggested that an extended period of rotating night-shift work was associated with a modestly increased risk of type 2 diabetes in women.

The study noted that late-night workers might be more likely to grab a fast, less-nutritious meal than those who work normal business hours. They might also get less sleep and exercise less because of the disturbed sleep schedules.

"A substantial proportion of the work force will be working in shifts and advice from governments needs to reflect that," Barbour said. "And shift workers, in turn, need to ensure they understand that shift work is not just inconvenient and anti-social, but also a substantial risk factor for poor health outcomes. Hence, they need to consider their shift work as their 'normal' hours and make a positive effort to ensure they incorporate a balanced diet, and exercise into their lifestyle, despite the hours."

Shift workers make up about 15 to 20 percent of the European and U.S. working population.  It is "notoriously associated" with poor eating habits and, ironically, shift work is especially associated with the health care industry.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio