According to new research, working long night hours may increase the risk for AFib, i.e. atrial fibrillation. Precisely speaking, those working night shifts are at a 12% higher risk of developing this irregular heart rate, compared to those working during the day.
To be able to understand the risk and how serious it is, we should first learn a little more about atrial fibrillation. So, let’s begin.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, also referred to as AFib, is a very common type of irregular heart rate people suffer from. It is actually the most common type of heart arrhythmia. It is characterized by an irregular heart rate in the upper part of the heart resulting in poor blood flow to the lower heart chambers.
In addition, some people may experience AFib for a short time, while others can suffer from the condition permanently. Potential causes for AFib include heart disease, high blood pressure, congenital heart disease, previous heart attack, heart failure, thyroid issues, lung disease, infections, sleep apnea, smoking, and obesity.
And unfortunately, if left untreated, atrial fibrillation can lead to extremely serious consequences like stroke or heart failure. Statistics show that the condition was lethal for over 175,000 people in 2018. Similarly, it is estimated that over 12 million Americans will develop AFib by 2030.
But, what’s the connection between working late nights and atrial fibrillation? Here’s the answer:
What’s the Link between AFib and Working Night Shifts?
Although it may sound surprising, working night shifts for a long period of time can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. A study conducted on more than 280,000 people suggests that even though there isn’t a causal link between these two, they are still connected.
It showed that reducing the frequency and duration of night shift work can indeed prevent atrial fibrillation and bring health benefits to the heart and blood vessels. The study also found that people who had been working late nights for their entire lives had an 18% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Furthermore, the researchers found that those who work night shifts from time to time, 3 to 8 nights per month on average, for 10 or more years, are at a 22% higher risk of suffering from this type of heart arrhythmia.
The results of the study aren’t surprising because working at night is typically accompanied by several bad lifestyle habits that directly increase the risk of AFib. In other words, those who work at night tend to follow a less healthy lifestyle.
Namely, working nontraditional hours make people less physically active and more sedentary as it is complicated for them to exercise. Similarly, they usually develop metabolic abnormalities such as impaired fasting glucose which can then result in diabetes. People working night shifts are also more likely to be obese and overweight as they don’t tend to eat properly.
The bottom line, even though the link between atrial fibrillation and working late night shifts isn’t causal as we already said, the risk for developing this type of heart arrhythmia is significantly higher in those working nontraditional hours.
The reason for this connection is the physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity, and the potential development of high blood pressure that come along with working night shifts, all of which are serious risk factors for atrial fibrillation.