By Marijke Vroomen Durning
ON THE FIRST Sunday in November, millions of Americans will perform their twice-a-year ritual of resetting their clocks, this time
moving back one hour to standard time from
daylight saving time. Most clocks are fairly
simple to adjust, but adapting to the change is
not always so easy for people.
Researchers have proven that time changes
have a physical effect on the human body. Fall’s
change may not have as strong an impact as
spring’s switch, which causes us to “lose” an
hour, but it can still have a significant effect on
how we react, ranging from a feeling of being
“off” for a couple of days to having a heart
attack. In fact, a study published in 2008 found
that there is an increase in heart attacks during
the first day following the change to standard
time (and for three days following the switch to
You can look at the time-change effect as
you would jet lag, says Dr. Marc Leavey, an
internist at Mercy Medical Center in
Lutherville, Maryland. “Suddenly your body
clock is disrupted. Your body is thinking that
it’s dinnertime, but it really isn’t yet,” he
explains. By adding an hour to the day, you’re
playing with the peaks and valleys in your hormone and cortisol levels, and so on. When you
shift the clock forward or backward, you’re
throwing your cycle off and things just don’t
If you’re tempted to use a stimulant or sedative until things feel normal again, Leavey cautions against it. Their effects could end up
making things worse in the long run. Instead,
Effects of the “extra” hour
PULMONARY HYPERTENSION (PH)
is overly high blood pressure in the vessels that carry blood from the right side
of the heart to the lungs.
PH is not the same as the more familiar systemic high blood pressure, and is a
far more serious condition. Systemic
blood pressure can be easily measured
with a cuff inflated on the arm, but PH is
much harder to evaluate and diagnose,
and can lead to right heart failure if left
untreated. A noninvasive echocardiogram
is one method used to estimate pulmonary
artery pressure, but only an invasive procedure—right heart catheterization—can
yield a direct measurement.
PH can affect men and women of all
ages and racial or ethnic groups. It can
occur along with another disease or condition, such as pregnancy, heart and blood
vessel diseases, lung diseases, liver diseases, sleep apnea, connective tissue diseases such as lupus and scleroderma,
thyroid diseases, HIV infection or use of
certain diet medicines or illicit drugs.
PH symptoms can include:
• Frequent tiredness
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Irregular heartbeat
• Swollen ankles and legs
• Fluid in the abdomen
Diagnosis of PH is so difficult because
many other diseases—including conges-
tive heart failure, asthma or chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease—also have
these same symptoms, and need to be
ruled out before a PH diagnosis is made.
New treatments have improved survival rates and quality of life for those
living with this condition. Early diagnosis is crucial.
The Pulmonary Hypertension
Association has been providing support,
education, research, advocacy and awareness of the condition since 1990. Visit
www.phassociation.org to learn more
about this disease and how you can help
find a cure.—David Wight
Tablet or smartphone?
Scan or click here to
see a video about the
importance of early
Shifting to standard time can take a toll
he suggests shifting your sleep patterns before
the actual change. While it would be easier if
the official time switch occurred before the
weekend began, you can soften the blow by
going to bed a half hour later on Friday and
another half hour later on Saturday, says Leavey.
If you take medications, you may want to
move the times gradually too. Medications
you take once or twice a day aren’t too much
of an issue, but those that you have to take
every four or six hours may need some
adjustments. Leavey suggests taking the same
approach as with adjusting your sleep. Push
back the time you take your pill by a half
hour one day, and the next day take the pill at
the regular time. This prevents an extra-long
gap between doses.
The fall time change also coincides with
shorter daylight hours for many Americans.
“In the fall, you go out at 6 o’clock and it’s dark.
You have no interest in doing anything,” says
Leavey. It’s important to try to get outside as
much as possible to soak up a few rays, even if
it’s for a short while during your lunch break.
Some people use light boxes during the fall and
winter months. These mimic the effect of sunlight and may help people feel more awake.
The good news is that the effects from the
time change are temporary. And before you
know it, you’ll be changing all those clocks
again when it’s time to spring forward. C
Marijke Vroomen Durning is a health writer
and registered nurse in Montréal, Québec