Stroke: Millions at greater risk of stroke when the clocks change – how to lower your odds

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Stroke is a life-threatening condition caused by a sudden obstruction of blood flow to the brain. There are a number of physical precursors for the condition, such as hypertension and high cholesterol. Some other risk factors, however, aren’t easily modifiable. Doctor Earim Chaudry, MD of the men’s health platform Manual, explains how subtle disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythm can increase the risk of stroke.

The human body runs on an internal clock that enables us to wake up in the morning, and doze off at night.

Mounting research is highlighting the importance of the body’s internal rhythms for a number of other biological functions.

The body clock controls not only the sleep-wake cycle but is also central to many metabolic processes, hormone secretion and body temperature.

For these reasons, millions will endure minor disruptions to their circadian rhythm, as the clocks go back on October 31st.

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One line of research suggests these minor disturbances could entail major health risks.

“Daylight saving hours (DSH) can trigger many mental health complications,” explained doctor Chaudry.

“Diagnosis for depression can increase by up to 11 percent once the clocks alter and the days grow shorter.

“However, DHS can also affect your physical health too.”

In 2016, researchers set out to investigate whether changing one’s body clock could increase the chances of stroke.

The study of more than 15,000 people found stroke admissions increase by eight percent in the two-day window after the clocks went forward or back.

“There are a number of preliminary studies that indicate that a time transition such as DSH can increase the risk of ischaemic stroke, which are caused by a clot blocking blood flow to the brain,” explained Doctor Chaudry.

“The study points to an interruption in circadian rhythm or our internal body clock which is then thought to increase stress on the body, particularly in older patients.

“Whilst more research needs to be done to discover the link between ischaemic strokes and DSH, there are more simple ways to reduce the impact of the time transition and help your body adjust.”

How to adapt your body

To help avoid unsettling your internal clock, doctor Chaudry recommends preparing days before the clock change, which will enable a smoother transition.

Going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual can help the body make up for the lost hour of sleep.

“Be consistent with your schedule and stick to your usual sleeping, eating and exercise schedule,” explained doctor Chaudry.

“Try to avoid long naps in the middle of the day too as they can make it harder to get a full night’s sleep.”

Food and drink intake can be just as important for ensuring uninterrupted sleep.

Doctor Chaudry added: “Avoiding additional coffee and alcohol is also recommended in the days leading up to Sunday, to allow your body time to adjust.

“Alcohol can also prohibit you from sleeping properly, which can affect your sleep schedule.”

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