Are you a nurse at a hospital, who finds yourself working the night shift
more often than not? Or maybe you work at a factory, where shifts run continually, 24/7. While you may enjoy your job, you may also be putting your health at risk.
What kind of risk, you ask? Perhaps the potential to fall asleep on your drive home? Actually, that may be the least of your worries . . .
It turns out, according to a recent study, that women who work the third shift may be putting themselves at risk for heart disease
. It seems like this is especially true for health care workers, or staff who work night shifts at hospitals. What seems ironic is that these women are compromising their own health in an effort to improve the health of their patients instead.
Dr. Joan Tranmer, who was a former nurse that worked third shift, noticed that the health of her female work force who worked hours similar to hers was slowly deteriorating. This phenomenon caused her to question if the late nights were taking a toll on the health of the employees. It was uncertain if the diminishing health was due to the late hours that were being worked, or if it was related to certain aspects of the hospital work. Details of the Study
For the study, Dr. Tranmer investigated any possible connection between third shift work and increasing risk factors for heart disease in female hospital employees specifically; and studied employees who worked both shift and non-shift rotations. The 227 women who were studied were all between the ages of 22 and 66 years old, and had an average age of 46. They came from two hospitals in southeastern Ontario. In an effort to produce non-biased results, a variety of staff were studied instead of focusing solely on nurses. The staff included administrative employees, lab technicians and equipment technicians.
The results concluded that at around one in five middle aged women who do late night shift work have at least three risk indicators for heart disease. Many of the women had high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and low levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), which is more commonly known as the “good cholesterol
Details were provided by each woman that was studied through an in-depth survey that asked questions regarding their work history and personal lifestyle. Over 60 percent of the women had an elevated waist circumference, and had a waist measurement greater than 80 centimeters. All of these symptoms are accurate measurements for predicting the risk of developing heart disease, as well as related conditions including risk of stroke, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes. What Can Be Done?
Dr. Tranmer stresses the importance of maintaining a regular weight, as well as a steady diet and a consistent exercise schedule for third shift workers. The late nights are already interfering with their body's biological clock, and the stressful work is straining them even more. If you’re a night shift worker, make sure that you’re eating right, exercising, and doing whatever you need to do to reduce the stress in your life – whether that’s taking a short vacation, meditating, or practicing yoga. Your health depends on it.