TUESDAY, Aug. 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Long stints on the night shift could set you up for the dangerous heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation (a-fib), new research suggests.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data on more than 283,000 people in the UK Biobank database, and found that those who worked night shifts on a usual or permanent basis had a 12% higher risk of a-fib than those who only worked during the day.
The risk was 18% higher among people who'd been on night shifts for their entire working career, and 22% higher among those who worked an average of three to eight night shifts a month for 10 years or more.
"Although a study like this cannot show a causal link between night shifts and atrial fibrillation and heart disease, our results suggest that current and lifetime night shift work may increase the risk of these conditions," said study co-leader Yingli Lu, from Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital and Shanghai JiaoTong University School of Medicine, in China.
"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," Lu explained.
The study was published Aug. 10 in the European Heart Journal.
Study co-leader Dr. Lu Qi is a professor at Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.
According to Qi, "There were two more interesting findings. We found that women were more susceptible to atrial fibrillation than men when working night shifts for more than 10 years. Their risk increased significantly, by 64%, compared to day workers.
"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. Thus, women and less physically active people may benefit particularly from a reduction in night shift work," he said in a journal news release.
Lu added, "We plan to analyze the association between night shift work and atrial fibrillation in different groups of people. This may strengthen the reliability of these results and serve as a warning to groups working in certain types of occupations to get their hearts checked early if they feel any pain or discomfort in their chest."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on a-fib.
SOURCE: European Heart Journal, news release, Aug. 16, 2021