Daylight Saving Time linked to higher stroke risk

Changing our clocks forward or back may increase the risk of stroke by 8%, according to a new study.

Researchers from Finland's University of Turku analyzed data from individuals who were hospitalized during the week of a Daylight Saving Time transition, and compared it with the rate of stroke in a group of people who were hospitalized two weeks before or two weeks after the change.

For the first two days after the switch, the rate of ischemic stroke, which makes up 87% of all strokes, was 8% higher. Researchers say the results back up previous studies that show stroke risk to be linked to circadian rhythms, which are disrupted during a time change.

While the change in stroke risk was relatively small, the results were more pronounced in older adults, and could be a sign for healthcare workers to be more vigilant for stroke symptoms in their patients around time changes, said lead researcher Jori Ruuskanen, M.D., Ph.D. Daylight Saving Time begins in the U.S. on Sunday, March 13.

“For the staff and people living in a nursing home I think it is intuitively a good idea to try not to keep so tightly to the schedule following the DST changes, or maybe even try to adjust the sleeping time gradually over the few preceding days, e.g. 15 minutes per day, if feasible.” Ruuskanen told McKnight's via email.

Ruuskanen noted the findings could also be used in future debates over whether Daylight Saving Time is necessary.