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Heart health researchers call for end of daylight saving time

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This weekend marks the return to daylight saving time (DST) in Manitoba, but researchers at St. Boniface Hospital say the practice of setting our clocks ahead one hour in the spring and then back again in the fall is bad for your heart.

New studies conducted at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research show just how bad the biannual time change is for Manitobans with heart problems.

“Recent work we’ve been doing is showing a strong link that further substantiates the very real and detrimental effects of DST on cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of heart attacks and heart disease in people who work shifts, and it may differ between men and women,” said institute director Lorrie Kirshenbaum in a news release.

The New England Journal of Medicine says the risk of heart attacks increases by 24 per cent on the Monday following the switch to DST in the spring.

As well, research shows DST can make it difficult for shift workers to adjust their internal clocks to their work schedule, leading to sleep deprivation, fatigue, and decreased cognitive function.

Principal investigator Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin said a shift to year-round standard time in Manitoba would move our social clock closer to our natural circadian rhythm, which is set by the dawn.

“We specifically found that the circadian clock regulates a crucial adaptive stress response which affects the ability of the heart to control quality control mechanisms and survival of heart cells after a heart attack,” said Rabinovich-Nikitin in a news release. “So, maintaining a healthy circadian clock is important not only for disease prevention, but also affects the outcomes following a heart attack.”

Both Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin believe moving Manitoba to permanent standard time would help prevent the negative effects of DST on physical and mental health, including increased risks for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, and some forms of cancer.

“This is vitally important for many people, but particularly for shift workers, many of whom work in the healthcare field,” Rabinovitch-Nikitin emphasized.

The Manitoba government said it is looking to do away with DST after introducing a new bill last year.

“It is expected that the legislation introduced last November will pass by June, however it won't end daylight savings unless that's what happens in the United States,” the province said in an email statement.

“The proposed legislation would allow Manitoba to adjust quickly if and when the United States decides to end time changes in the spring and fall, in order to have alignment with this major trading partner.”Manitoba sets its clocks forward one hour on Sunday, Mar. 12 at 2:00 a.m.

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