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Consumers who work the night shift have increased risk of heart problems, study finds

Previous research has linked this kind of work to several different diseases and conditions

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Photo (c) Justin Paget - Getty Images
Plenty of previous research suggests that working the night shift can be harmful to consumers’ long-term health. Now, another recent study shows that it may cause potentially serious heart conditions.

Two researchers from the U.S. and China say they found evidence that consumers who work the night shift have a higher risk for atrial fibrillation -- a condition characterized by an irregular and often rapid heart rate that leads to poor blood flow. They say this is true for workers who currently follow this kind of schedule and those who previously worked it for a longer period of time.

"Our findings have public health implications for preventing atrial fibrillation. They suggest that reducing both the frequency and the duration of night shift work may be beneficial for the health of the heart and blood vessels,” said researcher Yingli Lu.

Women and physically inactive are most at risk

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing over 286,000 health records from the UK Biobank. They found that people who currently work night shifts on a usual or permanent basis have a 12% higher risk of atrial fibrillation than consumers who work during the day. However, they found that this risk rose to as high as 22% if consumers worked the night shift for 3 to 8 days per month over 10 years or more.

On top of the increased risk of atrial fibrillation, the researchers found that working the night shift under those same conditions drastically increased the risk of other heart conditions. For example, the increased risk of coronary heart disease was 35% higher for night shift workers.

The researchers found that women and those who are not very physically active had the greatest risk of atrial fibrillation when they worked the night shift for longer periods of time. However, the findings were more positive for those who were able to find time to be physically active.

“People reporting an ideal amount of physical activity of 150 minutes a week or more of moderate intensity, 75 minutes a week or more of vigorous intensity, or an equivalent combination, had a lower risk of atrial fibrillation than those with non-ideal physical activity when exposed to a lifetime of night shift work,” said researcher Lu Qi. 

The full study has been published in the European Heart Journal.

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