The Risk of CHD in Night Shift Workers is Modifiable – Study Suggests

Our body works by means of a particular circadian rhythm. Nature has designed the human body in a way that we automatically fall asleep at night… Melisa Silver - May 8, 2016

Our body works by means of a particular circadian rhythm. Nature has designed the human body in a way that we automatically fall asleep at night and stay awake when it’s bright. It has been studied that if a person is kept in a place where he is not exposed to light, the normal circadian rhythm leads to be 25 hours long, which is almost near to the normal value, that is, 24 hours. So you can’t really move a human body from routine that has been set by nature for us.

Hence, it is quite obvious that if you try to move out from the normal boundaries that have been decided for you, you shall put yourself into the doldrums of various ailments and symptoms. For example, recent research has warned the frequent night shift workers of their disrupted sleep routine, since studies have revealed that it puts them towards high risk of developing coronary heart disease (C.H.D).

In general, anyone who takes tremendous amounts of stress is prone to develop cardiovascular ailments. In the case of frequent night shift workers, stress levels are pretty high than normal, and so, C.H.D stands out to become the top disease risk in their case. Hence, it is always advised to keep changing the night-shift routine, so that you can have equal amounts of night-time rest too, rather than continue working in the dark and being asleep during the day.

However, recent studies and observations have denoted a slight change in this fact. According to a research publication which was printed in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), this pattern of high CHD risks among night time shift workers tends to change over time, and does not prevail as a constant factor.

Dr. Céline Vetter, Channing Division of Network Medicine, Harvard University, Boston, MA, who is also the lead investigator of the research says that it is probably the first report in which, such a variation has been seen that wanes with time as well as diminish when a person stops to work at nights. Moreover, this factor is still exhibiting variations with changes that take place in one’s body, such as the BMI, and changes in lifestyle factors like diet, smoking and physical activity.

The analysis involved 189, 158 nurse subjects, and was divided into two components, NHS 1 study and NHS 2 study. The risk of developing CHD in both of these study categories appeared to be 18% and 27% respectively. The risk was compared between two groups, one which worked at night shifts for 10 long years, and the other which had no such history.

Vetter said that,

“If you suffer from circadian misalignment we know that there is increased inflammation, we know that metabolism is dysregulated. So most of those mechanisms that we think of that are connected with coronary artery disease are basically linked to the circadian system.”

She also commented that we are still clueless in guiding people as to what to change about their night working routine.

The NHS 2 category of this study revealed that the risk of CHD was increased by 38 percent in a cohort study containing rather younger women and doing more aggressive night-shift work. The risk showed up to be 25% for those below 12 years, 13% for those who were below 12 to 24 years, and 0.97% for those women who were older than 25 years of age.

Vetter says that the risk of CHD in cases of night-shift working is rather a factor that can be modified. Changes in the night-shift working can reverse the risk, and so can other healthy lifestyle habits such as a good diet and proper exercise.