14:47 28 July 2012
Being a shift worker is worse for your heart than being a regular day worker, new research has suggested.
Studies of more than 2m workers in the British Medical Journal revealed that shift workers are more likely to suffer a heart attack.
This is because shift work sends the body clock out of comfort. Shifter workers are also at greater risk of diabetes and an increased risk of high blood pressure.
The solution could be to limit night shifts, the experts said after analysing 34 separate studies which took into account general health/fitness, diet and socio-economic status.
The figures were clear: There were 17,359 coronary events of some kind, including cardiac arrests, 6,598 heart attacks and 1,854 strokes caused by lack of blood to the brain among the workers, with shift workers much more at risk.
The BMJ study concluded that these workers had a 23% increased risk of heart attack, 24% increased risk of coronary event and 5% increased risk of stroke.
However, despite the risks the outcome was rarely fatal.
Jane White of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health advised: "Ensuring workers have a minimum of two full night's sleep between day and night shifts can help people to cope with shift work"
Dan Hackam, associate professor at Western University, London Ontario in Canada, said: "Night shift workers are up all the time and they don't have a defined rest period. They are in a state of perpetual nervous system activation which is bad for things like obesity and cholesterol."
The study experts have advised businesses to offer screening processes for staff to identify and treat risk factors for shift workers, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also offer advice about symptoms to look for and dietary advice.
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