by Dr. Gregory Brown
If you are working night shifts or hours that disturb your natural body clock, you could be increasing your risk for heart disease, according to some health professionals.
People who work early mornings, late evenings or nights may be at higher risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease.
If you sleep six hours or less on workdays, the difference between a person’s normal biological clock is nearly two hours. In other words, graveyard shift workers may be living with a two-hour sleep deficit.
Did you know that the odds of falling into a high risk category for heart disease and other heart problems increases for each additional hour of sleep deprivation?
All of us have an internal biological clock which means that for each hour of our work schedule that is out of sync with your natural body clock, the risk of heart disease and other serious health problems increases.
About 1 in 6 of people working actively in America today are working second or third shift, including six percent who work evenings and four percent who work nights, according to recent government statistics.
Working odd hours or rotating shifts can create long-term health problems such as chronic insomnia and heart disease, based on recent research.
Considering the fact that nearly half of Americans are considered to be at high risk for heart disease due to being overweight or having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, this is essentially a health crisis.
Researchers looks at pople’s work, sleep and health habits along with their blood pressure and cholesterol to determine their level of health. Those individuals deemed to be high risk are encouraged to make changes to their lifestyle and perhaps change jobs.
Scientists use factors like sleep duration and internal biological clock are used to establish levels of circadian rhythm disturbances.
Circadian misalignment, or “social jet lag,” is the difference between an individual’s biological clock and normal working hours.
The phenomena occurs when there is a mismatch between what the body wants (for example, to fall asleep at 10 p.m) and shift work or overnight work schedules
A lot of shift workers are also smokers, which means that high cholesterol and high blood pressure are compounding risk factors for stroke.
These circumstances all contribute to an increase in a person’s risk for long-term health problems, including sleep apnea.
Twenty percent of shift workers are classified as being at high risk for serious health problems down the road.
In more than half of shift workers, social jet lag is two hours or less, but it is two to four hours for at least a third of them and four hours for close to ten percent of them.
A higher level of social jet lag is significantly associated with greater odds of being in the high-risk groups for heart disease.
There appears to be growing evidence that circadian misalignment may be the reason for the association found between shift work and poor health conditions.
It is therefore vital that people with atypical work schedules monitor their heart health closely, which means regular visits to your physician.
(published April 19, 2021)