Shiftwork linked to heart disease risk

Shiftworkers are at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to a new study. The authors, whose findings are published online in the British Medical Journal, say their research is the largest analysis of shiftwork and vascular risk to date and 'has implications for public policy and occupational medicine.' The team of researchers from Canada and Norway analysed 34 studies. In total, 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. These events were more common in shiftworkers than in other people. The BMJ study calculated that shiftwork was linked to a 23 per cent increased risk of heart attack, 24 per cent increased risk of a coronary event and 5 per cent increased risk of stroke. The researchers took the socioeconomic status of the workers, their diet and general health into account in their findings. The study concludes: 'Shiftworkers should be educated about cardiovascular symptoms in an effort to forestall or avert the earliest clinical manifestations of disease. Evidence also exists in the literature to suggest that modification and rationalisation of shift schedules may yield dividends in terms of healthier, more productive workers; however, the long term effects of these alterations on vascular outcomes remain unknown. 

Source : Shift work and vascular events: systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ 2012;345:e4800, published 26 July 2012.


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