A person’s health can be affected by shift work, study says

Islamabad (Online): According to recent research, the Shift work is known to impact on the health of employees, affecting sleep pattern, meal times and their ability to exercise

But now, a new study has warned irregular hours could also increase an employees risk of suffering a severe stroke. But, a new study from experts at Texas A&M University found people working irregular hours, whose sleep and eating patterns were disturbed, are also at greater risk of suffering a severe stroke.

Professor David Earnest, at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, said: ‘The body is synchronized to night and day by circadian rhythms – 24-hour cycles controlled by internal biological clocks that tell our bodies when to sleep, when to eat and when to perform numerous physiological processes.

‘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.’

According to Professor Earnest, it is not the longer hours – or their irregular nature – necessarily that is the problem. Rather, it is the change in when a person wakes up, goes to bed and eats every few days that ‘unwinds’ their body clocks, and makes it difficult for them to maintain their natural, 24-hour cycle.

When body clocks are disrupted, as they are when people go to bed and get up at radically different times every few days, there can be a major impact on health.

Professor Earnest and his team found shift work can lead to more severe ischemic strokes – the leading cause of disability in the US.
Ischemic strokes are those which occur when blood flow to the brain is cut off, often due to a blood clot.

Using an animal model, Professor Earnest and colleagues, including Dr Farida Sohrabji, found that subjects on shift work schedules had more severe stroke outcomes.
This was in terms of both brain damage and loss of sensation and limb movement, compared to a control group on a regular 24-hour cycle of day and night.

Of interest, the researchers, who’s work was supported by the American Heart Association, found that males and females show major differences in the degree to which the stroke was exacerbated by circadian rhythm disruption.

Professor Earnest and his team found shift work can lead to more severe ischemic strokes – the leading cause of disability in the US. Ischemic strokes are those which occur when blood flow to the brain is cut off, often due to a blood clot, illustrated. In males, the gravity of stroke outcomes in response to shift work schedules was much worse than in females. Dr Sohrabji said: ‘These sex differences might be related to reproductive hormones.

‘Young women are less likely to suffer strokes, as compared with men of a similar age, and when they do, the stroke outcomes are likely to be less severe.  ‘In females, estrogen is thought to be responsible for this greater degree of neuroprotection.

Researchers found in men the gravity of stroke outcomes in response to shift work was much worse than in women ‘Essentially, estrogen helps shield the brain in response to stroke.’  However, older women approaching menopause show increasing incidence of ischemic stroke and poor prognosis for recovery, compared with men at the same age.

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