Increased heart attack risk part of time change

Friday, March 11, 2016

McCook Fire Chief Marc Harpham told the City Council he was concerned about the number of ambulance calls for heart attacks, and the relatively young age of the victims.

He might not have an explanation for the problem, but he might want to keep extra personnel on alert next week.

That's because we'll all lose an hour of sleep Saturday night and that's been shown to result in more cardiac calls.

"Moving the clocks ahead one hour in March is associated with a 10-24 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday, and to some degree, Tuesday," said Martin Young, PhD, in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Cardiovascular Disease.

The problem seems to be with the circadian clock inside every cell in the human body, which follows a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding to changes in light and darkness in the environment.

Interrupting that cycle puts stress on the body.

When someone wakes up, Young said, the body sends a large number of electrical signals to the heart, called sympathetic tone. When one is sleep-deprived, however, that sympathetic tone can be elevated, even when asleep, which is strongly correlated with cardiovascular disease.

There are often underlying conditions in sleep-deprived people as well, such as increased risk of diabetes and inflammatory response, which can contribute to heart attack risk.

While there's not much time left to prepare your body for the time change, there are some long-term steps -- literally -- you can take to improve your heart health.

Walking is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by getting the blood flowing and making your heart stronger.

The Southwest Nebraska Public health Department's 13th annual Walk to Health program starts Sunday, April 3.

It's a free 12-week program open to residents of all ages in the SWNPHD nine-county service area.

Get a registration form by emailing info@swhealth.ne.gov, downloading a form from www.swhealth.ne.gov, calling (308) 345-4223 or stopping in at the office, 404 West 10th (one block north of Arby's) in McCook.

Twelve weeks later, you'll get an evaluation form to fill out and return for a free Walk to Health T-shirt. Turn in your health check form, walking journal and evaluation and you can compete for inches and weight lost prizes.

If we're going to be subject to the stress of lost sleep, using that extra daylight at the end of the day to improve our health makes even more sense.

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