Time change increases heart health risks: doctors

By Alex Karpa

This weekend marks the return to daylight saving time, with the clock moving ahead one hour, but researchers at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital say switching the time twice a year is bad for heart health.

It’s something we all dread. Whether the clock is springing forward or falling back, it impacts us.

“Unfortunately, it is very concerning. What we’re trying to suggest is that the daylight saving time will be eliminated,” Dr. Inna Rabinovitch-Nikitin, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research explained.

“When we disrupt the normal circadian rhythm, it increases the risk for different diseases, including cardiac disease.”

Cardiovascular researchers, like Dr. Rabinovitch-Nikitin are calling for the end of daylight saving time, as new studies conducted show just how bad the biannual change is for people with heart problems.

“If you have a genetic mutation in circadian or any disruption to the circadian, it can cause a defect in the quality control processes. That is why when you have a heart attack, the damage is greater, and the outcome is actually worse.”

Studies from the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Academy of Neurology have shown that the risk of heart attacks increases by 24 per cent on the Monday following the switch to DST in the spring, for shift workers, it’s much worse, at 40 per cent.

The risk of stroke increases in the following days of the switch, and sleep deprivation increases workplace accidents.

“So, there’s two things that are happening to us. We are losing an hour of sleep, and we are moving our body clocks away from the sun,” said Dr. Patricia Lakin-Thomas, Biology Professor, York University.

Dr. Lakin-Thomas from York University says because our internal clocks run a bit slow, we rely on dawn light to reset our clock every day so we can be in line with the day and night cycle, but moving the clocks forward impacts that cycle.

“We’re putting ourselves into a chronic jet lag condition whenever we are daylight saving time. Our body is trying to follow the sun, and our social clock is telling us, we have to get up at a time when our body isn’t ready for.”

The Manitoba government said it is looking to do away with the time change after introducing a bill last year. B.C. plans to switch to permanent daylight saving time, but not until the U.S. passes similar legislation.

Rabinovitch-Nikitin believes moving to a permanent standard time would have more positive long-term health outcomes for Canadians.

“Basically, if we stay with the winter time, it means that the dark and light cycles are aligned better with our circadian rhythms,” said Dr. Rabinovitch-Nikitin.

Most of Canada will set clocks forward one hour on Sunday at 2:00 a.m.

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