Why Healthy Fats Are Good For Those Experiencing Sleep Disruption.

It’s pretty crazy to think that as recently as the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s we were led to believe that fat was bad for us. But this whole fat-is-bad-for-us theory was actually based on very biased research by the now discredited-researcher, Ancel Keys, as he handpicked data to prove his hypothesis that diets rich in fat raised cholesterol and caused heart disease.

The thing is, our body needs fat and cholesterol to help facilitate a number of important physiological processes in the body such as in the manufacture of sex hormones which are critical not only for fertility, but for energy as well.

Ahh energy. Something that seems to vanish soon after commencing shift work as I’m sure you can relate!

There are also fats that are referred to as “essential” fats, meaning they are essential that we consume every day because the human body cannot create these fats from other substances inside ourselves, or other substances that we might consume.  So we must consume these essential fats every day.

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How Healthy Is Your Shift Work Heart?

cardiac diseaseSo I’ve been doing a bit of research on heart health this week thanks to a subject I’m studying at University at the moment called Clinical Examination.  My poor hubby has had to be a bit of a guinea pig for me as I hone my blood pressure taking skills in order to complete this subject (amongst other things), so lucky for me he has a big heart and loves me to bits!

However did you know studies have shown shift work is associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction (a fancy word for a heart attack), ischaemic stroke (a stroke caused from a blood clot), and other coronary or cardiac events (British Medical Journal 2012).

Not great news if you work 24/7.

In fact according to a particular systemic review* (a document which answers a question by reviewing research) and meta-analysis (a document which combines these findings into a statistical format) – all shift schedules with the exception of evening shifts were associated with a statistically higher risk of heart-related events.

So whilst shift work is known for disrupting our circadian rhythm or natural sleep cycle, taking care of your heart has never been more important when working irregular hours.

In fact according to Lo (et al. 2010~), even a single night shift is enough to increase blood pressure and impair the variation in time between heart beats, whilst insomnia has shown to be an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction (Laugsand et al. 2011+).

I don’t suppose your employer pointed out any of these conditions when you signed up to work 24/7.

But that’s OK – because that’s where I come in.

My passion for education and training (in conjunction with shift work health) is what steered me down a path to begin studying a science degree, majoring in Nutritional Medicine.

You see despite what many “experts” tell you – I really do believe that food is medicine, particularly when it comes to the health of our heart.

5 Foods To Support A Healthy Shift Worker Heart:

  1. FISH – such as salmon, mackerel or tuna which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and known to have an anti-clotting effect to help maintain blood flow, together with reducing triglycerides – a type of fat that can lead to heart disease.
  2. OATMEAL – a cup of oatmeal for breakfast will do wonders for your heart health because it contains beta-glucan, a fibre known to help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood (the nasty type of cholesterol).
  3. RED GRAPES – a handful of these will help to keep platelets in your blood from sticking together thanks to a type of antioxidant called resveratrol.
  4. RASPBERRIES – contain soluble fibre and vitamin C which are known to lower risk of stroke, as well as a type of antioxidant called polyphenol which helps to remove free radicals which cause oxidative damage to your body.
  5. WALNUTS – contain a certain amount of healthy monounsaturated fats which can help to reduce your nasty LDL cholesterol whilst also raising your “good” HDL cholesterol.

So make sure you take extra good care of your heart whilst working 24/7 and always seek medical advice from a qualified health provider with any specific questions you may have regarding any medical condition.  At the end of the day, prevention will always be better than cure – particularly when it comes to the manifestation of diseases such as cardiac or coronary heart disease.

* Manav V et al. 2012, ‘Shift work and vascular events: systemic review and meta-anaylsis’, British Medical Journal.

~ Lo et al. 2010, ‘Working the night shift causes increased vascular stress and delayed recovery in young women’, Chronobiology International.

+ Laugsand et al. 2011, ‘Insomnia and the risk of acute myocardial infarction’, Circulation.

15 Heart Healthy Foods To Work Into Your Diet