Some shift workers have a higher risk of developing hypertension than people who do not work shifts. That’s the finding from a study involving 25,343 workers at a German car manufacturing company.
Shift work and blood pressure
Researchers assessed each worker’s blood pressure measurements against their work pattern and whether they worked:
- day shifts (normal office hours or flexitime)
- shift work without nights (morning or evening shifts including Saturdays)
- rotating shift work with nights
- night shifts (5 or 6 nights per week).
Those who worked shifts (with or without nights) were around 50% more likely to have hypertension (a systolic blood pressure reading above 140 mmHg and or diastolic blood pressure above 90 mmHg) than those who worked normal office hours.
When factors such as obesity, daily alcohol intake, smoking and physical activity level were taken into account, however, work patterns and sleep disturbance were not significantly associated with hypertension – it was their behavioural responses that were doing the damage.
Alcohol intake, for example, increased the risk of hypertension ten-fold compared to those who never drank. This suggests it’s not the disruption of biorhythms that is harming health, but the lifestyle choices the workers make to cope with the stress associated with working shifts.
If you are one of the 17% of the work force across Europe and the US who is involved in some type of shift work, it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, and to have a long, hard look at your lifestyle. Are you eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and addressing stress in ways other than smoking and alcohol intake?
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
Image credits: chinnapong/shutterstock; marco_mayer/shutterstock