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Nursing2015 Critical Care

July 2012, Volume 7 Number 4 , p 36 - 40


  • Kathryn M. Kolasa PhD, RD, LDN
  • Gina Cahoon Firnhaber MSN, MLS, RN


If you work 12-hour shifts, you may find yourself skipping meals and breaks, avoiding exercise, and feeling fatigued. This lifestyle can wreak havoc on your health and performance. In this article, we review current evidence regarding the effect of shift work on diet and weight status and suggest steps you can take to improve your well-being.Studies describing the effects of 12-hour shifts on the health and well-being of nurses have focused primarily on fatigue, performance, productivity, or patient safety.1 Surprisingly few studies describe how shift work is associated with diet and weight-related conditions. Shift work has been associated with increased body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, BP, and low-density lipoprotein-in other words, metabolic syndrome.2 Your risk for heart disease increases when you have at least three of the following: * waist circumference over 35 inches (88 cm) for women and over 40 inches (102 cm) for men * triglycerides over 150 mg/dL * high-density lipoprotein under 40 mg/dL for men and under 50 mg/dL for women * BP over 130/85 mm Hg * fasting blood glucose level over 100 mg/dL.3Healthful eating habits may be difficult to maintain when working 12-hour shifts, which can lead to decreased alertness and inappropriate food choices.1,2 Some barriers to eating healthfully are institutional in nature. Lack of access to healthful food around the clock, higher costs of healthful foods, limited varieties of available foods, breaks and meal times lasting less than 30 minutes, and lack of convenient access to equipment for storing/heating food brought from home can all stand in the way of healthful eating during a nursing shift.4You can take steps to stay healthy while working 12-hours shifts. Follow these 13 tips to help you stay in tip-top shape.If your BMI is over 27 with other health risks or over 30 with no comorbidities, a clinically significant weight loss of 7% to 10% of your baseline weight can be achieved by eating 250 to 500 fewer

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