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Rotational shiftwork puts women at increased heart risk


Washington D.C.: Can changing work shifts risk your heart? Yes, according to a recent study.

The Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers found that women, who work more than 10 years of rotating night shift work, had a 15 to 18 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), the most common type of heart disease, as compared with women who did not work rotating night shifts.

“There are a number of known risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as smoking, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and elevated body mass index (BMI). These are all critical factors when thinking how to prevent CHD. However, even after controlling for these risk factors, we still saw an increased risk of CHD associated with rotating shift work,” said lead author Celine Vetter.

Vetter added, “Even though the absolute risk is small, and the contribution of shift work to CHD is modest, it is important to note that this is a modifiable risk factor, and changing shift schedules may have an impact on the prevention of CHD.”

Researchers examined the association between rotating night shift work and CHD over a period of 24 years and found that recent shift work might be most relevant for CHD risk and that longer time since stopping shift work was associated with decreased CHD risk, a new finding which researchers note warrants replication.

“Our results are in line with other findings, yet, it is possible that different schedules might carry a different risk, and we have very little information on exact schedules, as well as work start and end times,” Vetter said, adding, “We believe that the results from our study underline the need for future research to further explore the relationship between shift schedules, individual characteristics and coronary health to potentially reduce CHD risk.”

Researchers note that individual characteristics such as the individual’s biological rhythm, disrupted in rotating night shift workers, and information on sleep patterns and quality might modulate CHD risk. The study is published in JAMA.


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