Women working night shifts at high risk of heart disease

Washington: Women who do shift work may be at increased risk of heart disease, according to a new study.

Women hospital staff working night shifts may be compromising their own health as they try to improve the health of patients, said Dr. Joan Tranme who investigated the connection between shift work and risk factors for heart disease in female hospital employees, who worked both shift and non-shift rotations.

As a former nurse familiar with shift work and because of her concern about the health of the female hospital work force, Tranmer questioned whether late nights were taking their toll on the health of her fellow hospital employees.

Dr. Tranmer studied 227 women ranging in age between 22 and 66 from two hospitals in southeastern Ontario.

The study included not only nurses but also a variety of staff, including administrative employees as well as lab and equipment technicians, who worked a variety of rotations.

The results of her study suggested that approximately one in five middle-aged women who do shift work have at least three risk indicators for heart disease.

From the group, 17 per cent had metabolic syndrome, with at least three of the identified indicators. Thirty-eight per cent had high blood pressure.

Of particular concern was the finding that 60 per cent of the participants had a waist circumference greater than 80 cm.

Abdominal obesity and elevated waist circumference are good predictors for risk of developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cholesterol and type 2-diabetes.

The study found that age and current shift work status were significantly associated with increased risk.

Women over 45 years, those who had reached menopause, had a shift work history of more than six years, and those currently working either 12 hour shifts or rotational shifts were more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

“Just how shift work contributes to the development of such risk factors isn’t clear. It is possible that the disruption of biological rhythms, sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns may be factors,”concluded Dr. Tranmer.

The findings were presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2011.


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