Daylight Savings Time – March 8th 2009
With the end of the winter rapidly approaching, we all look forward to lighter evenings, and the additional daylight that the start of Daylight Savings Time, which begins in the United States on March 8th 2009, brings. Around the world an additional 1.5 billion people experience the same seasonal time adjustment each year.
However, a recent scientific study conducted in Sweden, based on nearly twenty years of heart attack data from 1987 to 2006, indicates that when the clocks ‘spring forward’ each year, this increases the risk of heart attack for many of us.
The research was carried out by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and the results were then published in the New England Journal of Medicine. These show that there is an amazing five percent increase in the heart attack statistics in the week after Daylight Savings Time begins.
The theory for this increase is that during the week after the time changes, most people suffer from sleep deprivation. This is compounded by the effect that a sudden time change has on the body’s sleeping patterns and daily biological rhythms.
With this in mind, you may expect a corresponding reduction in the number of heart attacks suffered during the weeks when the clocks ‘fall back’ in the autumn. However, this was not found to be the case, as the researchers discovered that a reduction in heart attacks also of five percent, only occurred on the first day following the end of daylight savings time.
DST results in reduction of sleep quality and duration
Many people find the bi-annual shift in time zones difficult to adjust to, and suffer a reduction in sleep quality and sleep duration, similar to that experienced with jet lag, only semi-permanent. There is a growing volume of evidence that suggests that this may have detrimental effects on our cardiovascular health.
However in the spring, the time change usually results in an hour of missed sleep, and also disrupts the body’s biological rhythms. Contrast this with the fall, when the end of Daylight savings Time combines a biological disruption, with an opportunity to GAIN some sleep, and this may counter the negative effects of the transition.
Monday most dangerous day of the week for heart attacks
It is also interesting to note that Monday is the day of the week that has been proven to be the most dangerous day of the week, and the most likely for suffering from a heart attack. This is most likely to be a combination of two factors – during Friday and Saturday nights most people tend to go to sleep later, and get up later the following morning. However this means that often they will go to sleep later on Sunday as well, but have to rise earlier on the Monday morning to go to work. This causes them to suffer from sleep deprivation. This is combined on Monday morning with a sudden increase in activity and stress related to the week ahead. This is made even worse during the week of the Daylight Savings Time change, and may account for the statistical increase in the heart attack rate.
Who Do Panic Attacks Affect?
Some 2.4 million Americans regularly experience episodes of panic, although the cause of panic attacks can be difficult to diagnose. Panic ‘disorder’ usually involves unexpected and possibly multiple occurences of intense fear which is often accompanied by frightening physical symptoms, including chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Typically, Panic disorder patients are more likely to be female, overweight, smokers and have a history of depression. The symptoms are particularly worrying because they appear to mimic symptoms of an actual heart attack.
Panic attack studies confirm heart risk
New research conducted by Doctor Kate Walters from University College, London, has discovered that there is an increased risk to heart health as a result of these panic attacks – in other words, panic attacks the heart. This may be due to the effect that a panic attack has on the body’s sympathetic nervous system, and the theory behind this claim is that people suffering from panic disorder may be more likely to experience clogged arteries related to the panic attacks. The study was conducted using the health records of more than 400,000 people across a broad age range, including 57,000 people who had been diagnosed with panic attacks
However, there are opposing theories that panic attacks may in fact cause the sufferer to indulge in unhealthy lifestyle habits, which result in the increased risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), rather than the effects of the panic attacks. The study which was published in the European Heart Journal, concluded that if you are under 50 years old, and you suffer from panic attacks, then your risk of suffering a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is increased by one third. If you are aged over 50 years, your risk of heart disease is still elevated, but to a much lesser degree.
Another study published in 2005 in the Official Journal of the American Psychosomatic Society concluded separately that individuals with panic disorder have nearly twice the average risk of suffering from some form of coronary heart disease. When the panic attacks cause is also combined with depression, this increased to three times the risk. This research was based on the medical history of nearly 40,000 people from the initial diagnosis of panic disorder. The study was led by Professor Andres Gomez-Caminero, and appears to link certain psychiatric conditions to cardiovascular disease.
Caution from the British Heart Foundation
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has given a cautious response to these findings, and has reserved its judgement on the possibility of a proven relationship between panic attacks and heart problems. A spokesman for the BHF commented “There may be many reasons why this association was found. For example people who suffer from panic disorders may be more likely to smoke, or drink too much alcohol to help them relax. Having an unhealthy lifestyle is one of the biggest risks to developing heart disease, whether you have panic attacks or not.”
The overall conclusions to be drawn from these studies would indicate that stress responses to anxiety and depression have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease, and highlights the requirement to raise awareness among physicians and cardiologists of panic disorder, and the importance of treating this condition in order to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
How to deal with panic attacks and panic attacks fear
If you are suffering, or think you may be suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, you should initially consult with your Doctor. Treatment for Panic disorder is usually given under the care of a physician or psychiatrist and may include panic attacks drugs, and/or psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Another expert in the field of psychiatry and neuroscience – Doctor Jack Gorman, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, comments that the above study represents “one more piece of evidence that mood and anxiety disorders … significantly increase the risk for heart disease,” adding that more work is needed “to understand the basic biological link between the brain and the heart that explains these phenomena.”
If you’ve seen the movie ‘snakes on a plane’ you may feel like you never want to fly again. However millions of Americans and people from the rest of the developed world rely on air travel both for business and leisure purposes, and giving up flying is simply not an option for most travellers.
Safest Seats on the plane
A UK study of 105 air accidents conducted by the British Civil Aviation Authority has concluded that the safest seat to occupy when flying is one within five rows of an emergency exit. This research applies to the chances of surviving an accident or other emergency situation. But what about other factors, such as health-related concerns, especially your in-flight heart and circulatory system health ? What are the most unsafe seats on the plane ?
Most Unsafe Airplane Seats for DVT
Well, apparently if you occupy a seat by the window, this doubles your risk of suffering from a potentially fatal DVT (deep vein thrombosis), or blood clot, according to a new study carried out by scientists from Leiden University Medical centre in Holland, and published by the British Journal of Haematology. If you sit in an aisle seat, then statistically there is no increased risk of DVT.
Another conclusion from the report suggests that the risks are even greater if the travellers are overweight or obese. If you fall into this category, and you occupy a window seat, then your chances of developing blood clots in the leg are an alarming six times greater than if you had been seated next the aisle. Also, flying Business Class helps to reduce the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis symptoms by up to thirty percent, according to the study.
Another major factor involved the length of the flight, with long haul flights topping the list of the highest risk options. There are a number of possible explanations for the findings :-
Reasons for Window Seat Related DVT
There are a number of possible theories for why the window seat occupancy may be responsible for the increased prevalence of DVT and blood clotting, as follows :-
- Passengers fall asleep more easily if they sit by the window
- sleeping for an extended period on a long haul flight increases the chance of developing a blood clot due to inactivity
- Window seats usually involve sitting or sleeping in a more restricted position
- Window seats offer less opportunity to move around the cabin and get exercise, without disturbing other passengers
The most serious DVT problems come if the blood clot migrates through the bloodstream to the lungs, where it can cause a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism.
Traditional DVT prevention methods may be less effective for window seat occupation
Some surprising aspects emerging from the study are that tried and trusted traditional methods used for preventing air travel related DVT may not be as effective as has been thought for window seat occupying passengers. Air travellers have increasingly been advised to :-
- wear elastic stockings during the flight
- avoid alcohol
- drink plenty of water
However the Leiden University research suggests that drinking plenty of water (or tea) during the flight made no difference to the risk of DVT, and amazingly, wearing elasticated stockings actually increased the risk of developing a DVT. Just to buck the trend completely having a small amount of alcohol – a single alcoholic drink appeared to protect against developing a blood clot.
British Heart Foundation Reaction and Advice
It is interesting to note the reaction of the British heart Foundation (BHF) to this research. Professor Jeremy Pearson, from the BHF commented that ‘There were not enough passengers in this study to conclude anything dramatic. All the current guidance to passengers is based on common sense.’ This is apparently due the limited scale of the passenger numbers, with a total of 188 passenger medical diagnoses, of which 80 people had contracted a DVT and the remainder had not.
The current air travel advice from the British Heart Foundation website is as follows :-
‘There is a low risk of developing a DVT while travelling by air. Do not take aspirin or any other medication to thin the blood without first getting advice from your doctor. If you have previously had a DVT or a clot in your lungs, or if you have recently had surgery under general anaesthetic, you have a higher risk of getting DVT than other people, and you should get medical advice before flying. Your doctor will give you advice on how to prevent a DVT while travelling by air based on your individual medical condition. If you have been advised to wear compression travel socks, it is important that you have your legs measured to help you to choose the right size. If the socks are very tight, they can do more harm than good’.
If you regularly sleep for less than seven and a half hours per night, you may be putting your heart health at risk, especially if you already suffer from high blood pressure, according to a Japanese sleep study published in the jounal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ by Doctor Kazuo Eguchi from Jichi Medical University in Tochigi, Japan.
20 Million People in the UK get less sleep than they need
Sleep enables the physiological and psycholigical restoration and repair of the body. Increasingly stressful modern living, longer commuting and working hours, and all-night shopping and entertainment have all contributed to a worldwide trend towards shorter nights sleep than ever before. Although the average for the United Kingdom is around seven hours, a third of the population – 20 million people – regularly only manage to grab 5 hours sleep or less.
Lack of sleep increases risk of heart disease
However, this lack of sleep may be putting us at increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke as the scientists have discovered that having less than seven and a half hours sleep per night increases the risk factor for heart attack and stroke by up to four times.
The sleep study involved a total of 1255 Japanese patients who were suffering from hypertension, over a period of four years. The patients were aged between 33 and 97 years old, with an average ago of 70. It was discovered that those who had insufficient sleep had a 68 percent increased risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiac arrest, with 99 incidents occurring during the study period.
High Blood Pressure and Sleep Deprivation increases risk of cardiovascular problems by 400 percent
The researchers also carried out extensive monitoring of the patients’ blood pressure changes as part of the reseach, and discovered that a relatively small number – twenty of the sleep deprived participants, failed to experience the normal overnight reduction in blood pressure whilst asleep. This smaller subset of the study group were found to be at four times greater risk of cardiovascular problems.
Doctor Eguchi’s team looking for a reason for the sleep study’s findings, believe that a lack of sleep results in greater activity of the nervous system, which also occurs when a persons blood pressure does not fall during the night. This combination in hypertensive patients may cause increased stress of the cardiovascular system, and account for the increased heart disease statistics. It recommends that doctors caring for patients with high blood pressure should investigate and monitor their sleeping patterns more carefully.
It should be noted however, that this study involved patients whose average age was 70 years old, and the results may not necessarily apply to younger people, or those who do not already suffer from high blood pressure.
Chronic deprivation of sleep can also be linked to a number of different health problems, including diabetes and obesity, and there is a link betweeen childhood sleep deprivation and future obesity in adulthood.
What about getting too much sleep ?
Another sleep study carried out at Warwick University in the United Kingdom in 2007 has shown that not only is too little sleep bad for your health, but sleeping for too long can also have harmful effects on your health. This study, carried out by Professor Francesco Cappuccio from the Warwick University Medical School involved over 10,000 government workers in the United Kingdom over a period of 11 – 17 years, and concluded that the optimum amount of sleep is 7 hours per night. However it also uncovered the startling fact that those whose sleep is excessive – more than 8 hours per night, doubled their risk of dying. In these cases however, the cause of death was not primarily due to heart diseases.