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article imageHigher chance of strokes with shift work

By Tim Sandle     Jun 2, 2016 in Health
Shift work is associated with a number of adverse physiological effects on the body. A new report, based on an animal model, suggest shift workers have a higher chance of developing blood clots and strokes.
Changes to the working day are progressively (some might add regressively) leading to more and more workers stepping outside of the traditional 9-to-5 working pattern. The effects of this have been linked to, as earlier Digital Journal articles have highlighted, a greater risk of obesity and diabetes, plus an elevated chance of accidents.
In a new study, researchers reveal how shift work can affect the brain. This stems from disruptions to the internal body clock which ebbs and flows to circadian rhythms or 24-hour cycles. Here the body responds in different ways to day and night, with the body being biologically programmed to be awake during daylight and asleep during periods of darkness.
Explaining this further, Dr. David Earnest, who heads up the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, stated: “A person on a shift work schedule, especially on rotating shifts, challenges, or confuses, their internal body clocks by having irregular sleep-wake patterns or meal times.”
The key issue is, Dr. Earnest’s research reveals, not so much extended hours (such as working a 12 hour shift), but the continual changes in times in the day when people are awake, sleep, eating and so on. Continual changes ‘unwind’ the body clock and disrupt the natural body rhythms.
Dr. Earnest’s study has found an association with rotating shift patterns, which include night work, and a higher possibility of severe ischemic strokes. These occur when blood flow to the brain is disrupted.
The connection between shift work and stroke has been alarming the Twitter community.
The connection between shift work and stroke has been alarming the Twitter community.
These findings are based on animal experiments, with animals subjected to varying states of waking and sleeping, replicating shift work. While the risk of stroke was higher in animals of both sexes, in males the risk of stroke outcomes was much far higher than with females. This difference could be linked to reproductive hormones, with estrogen providing a degree of neuroprotection. The reason for this connection was because within the females, older women are more prone to ischemic stroke than younger women. Another factor is the connection between shift work, a rise in inflammation, and strokes.
The issue has created a buzz on Twitter, with dozens of tweets on the subject of shift work, stroke and other ill-health effects.
Worries on Twitter about the link between shift work and stroke.
Worries on Twitter about the link between shift work and stroke.
Animal studies cannot represent the biochemical and physiological effects in people entirely. However, the research findings add to the growing body of evidence highlighting the risks of some forms of shift work.
The findings of the new study are soon to be published in the journal Endocrinology.
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