Daylight Saving Time: Heart attack risk rises with daylight time switch

Some ways to ease your body through the time change and lower the risk of heart attack.

Oh no, not again! That’s what you may be thinking as we prepare to move our clocks ahead one hour before bed Saturday, March 9, 2019. While Daylight Saving Time does have its benefits, losing an hour of sleep in exchange can make us feel out of sorts for a few days afterward.

In fact, statistics show springing forward actually causes stress on the body and may lead to a 10 percent to 24 percent increase in heart attacks for people with a history of heart disease.

“In the grand scheme of things it may only seem like losing one hour of sleep,” said Ibrahim Fahsah, M.D., cardiologist with Norton Heart Specialists. “But the truth of the matter is anytime there is an influx of stress on the body, there is a greater risk for heart attack, especially for those who are already at a high risk.”

The time change impacts our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, putting it out of sync with our day-night cycle. Circadian rhythms follow a roughly 24-hour schedule, responding to changes in light and darkness in our environment.

“Going from a sleep state to a wake state is a major stress on the body, especially your heart,” Dr. Fahsah said. “That is why the most common time of day for a heart attack is early morning, when people wake up.”

Dr. Fahsah offers some suggestions to help your body through the time change:

  • Give yourself a lighter load with work or other commitments on the Monday and Tuesday after we spring forward.
  • If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other heart-related conditions, be sure to take your medications and get plenty of rest.
  • Watch your stress level. If you feel the stress mounting, walk away and find a method to reduce it.
  • Stick to your sleep routine, or better yet, add to it. Go to bed on time or even a little earlier for a few days after the time change.
  • Once you’ve adjusted, look on the bright side: The reason for Daylight Saving Time is that extra hour of sunshine, so get outdoors in the evening.
  • Consider daily exercise as a part of your personal daily hygiene – the same mindset as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. One mile of fast-paced walking four or five days per week would be enough to reduce your stress level and risk of heart attack.

“Use the extra hour in the evening to exercise,” Dr. Fahsah said. “That will help you deal with the stress and improve your overall health.”

Dr. Fahsah also stresses the importance of making lifestyle changes to improve your heart health not just now, but always. These include quitting smoking and following a heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which primarily consists of plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts).


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