Health Scan: Shift work could be hazardous to women’s health

Studies find working the night shift raises the risk in women of contracting type-II diabetes, overweight and smoking.

Girl sleeping (photo credit: Wikicommons)
Girl sleeping
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
Working the night shift raises the risk in women of contracting type-II diabetes as well as overweight and smoking, according to two prospective studies recently published in the Israel Journal of Obstetrics/Gynecology.
The two US studies, conducted over long periods among nurses, were analyzed in the journal by Prof. Ido Sholat of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Medical Faculty and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Women who work for years on the night shift are more likely to be overweight, develop metabolic syndrome and smoke. Previous studies on the subject had been small and conducted on men, mostly in Japan. The journal article concluded that women who work late should be screened for such risks.
To blame is a disruption of the circadian rhythm, a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, the researchers suggest.
Disruptions of the circadian rhythm involve a complex process in the sleep cycle, energy balance, body heat, cell cycles and the production of hormones. All of these also affect lifestyle, which is a major factor in type-II diabetes.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, 15 million Americans work shifts. One would expect that relatively fewer Israeli women work shifts in Israel, but hospital nurses constitute a large group in which professionals work at irregular hours.
Previous studies have shown that women who work night shifts are at higher risk for breast cancer.
A new study suggests that simple tests that measure the ability to recognize and name famous people such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey may help doctors identify early dementia in those 40 to 65 years of age. The research appeared in a recent issue of the journal Neurology.
“These tests also differentiate between recognizing a face and actually naming it, which can help identify the specific type of cognitive impairment a person has,” said study author Tamar Gefen of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
For the study, 30 Americans with an average age of 62 who had primary progressive aphasia, a type of early onset dementia that mainly affects language, and 27 people without dementia were given a test.
The test includes 20 famous faces printed in black and white, including John F. Kennedy, Lucille Ball, Princess Diana, Martin Luther King Jr. and Elvis Presley. Participants were given points for each face they could name.
If the subject could not name the face, he or she was asked to identify the famous person through description.
Participants gained more points by providing at least two relevant details about the person. The two groups also underwent MRI brain scans.
Researchers found that the people who had early-onset dementia performed significantly worse on the test, scoring an average of 79 percent in recognition of famous faces and 46% in naming the faces, compared to 97% in recognition and 93% on naming for those free of dementia. The study also found that people who had trouble putting names to the faces were more likely to have a loss of brain tissue in the left temporal lobe of the brain, while those with trouble recognizing the faces had tissue loss on both sides of the temporal lobe.
“In addition to its practical value in helping us identify people with early dementia, this test also may help us understand how the brain works to remember and retrieve its knowledge of words and objects,” Gefen said.
Dr. Irving Spitz, emeritus professor of endocrinology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and adjunct professor of medicine at Weill Medical College at New York’s Cornell University, has just received a prestigious citation. The South African-born physician received in San Francisco the 2013 Sidney H. Ingbar Distinguished Service Award from The Endocrine Society. The citation was published in the August 2013 issues of the Journals of the Endocrine Society.
With prior Ingbar awardee Wayne Bardin, Spitz revolutionized women’s reproductive health by demonstrating to the satisfaction of the US Food and Drug Administration the efficacy and safety of the progesterone receptor antagonist RU486 (abortion pill), followed by a prostaglandin. This technique is now widely used for the safe termination of pregnancy in many countries around the world, including Israel.
Spitz is an avid music aficionado, traveler and photographer and often contributes articles to The Jerusalem Post on travel, art, history, photography, archeology, medicine and other subjects.