Gardening, lying in bed, drinks with friends and hitting the gym are among the many weekend hazards to your health
The one place you really don't want to be on the weekend is in hospital. Last week, it was revealed that stroke patients admitted on a Saturday or Sunday are up to 16 per cent more likely to die.
The research, by Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London, found that the risk was greatest for patients admitted to wards with fewer nurses per bed.
Meanwhile, a report earlier this year from NHS England found that all patients are 27 per cent more likely to die if admitted to hospital at the weekend - this was because fewer senior staff were available and there was a lack of access to key diagnostic tests, such as scans.
But even if you're not in hospital, weekends can be a health hazard. You might have thought it was your chance to recuperate after a hard week, but as we reveal, while they won't kill you, weekends may be bad for your health.
You're more likely to get constipation
Sitting around doing very little at the weekend can leave you constipated. This is because there is a strong connection between our physical state and the signals this sends to the bowels, explains Alistair Forbes, professor of gastroenterology, nutrition and medicine at the Norwich Medical School.
"In the working week, we move around quite a bit, even if it's walking to the bus stop or getting out in our lunch hour. However, when we are inactive the bowel becomes sluggish, too."
Eating less frequently - and less healthily - at the weekend may also cause constipation, adds Professor Forbes.
A Saturday coffee migraine
Migraines and headaches can occur more often at the weekend - especially on a Saturday - because of a change in our routine, suggests Dr Andy Dowson, director of headache services at King's College Hospital, London.
He says: "If you are used to eating at a certain time of day or getting up and falling asleep at the same time, the disruption at the weekend can cause headaches as your body and brain try to adjust to irregular meals or having a lie-in."
Weekend coffee withdrawal could give you a headache. Photo / Thinkstock
One theory is that the hypothalamus - which maintains the normal environment in the brain, regulating our body temperature and hormone levels - is very sensitive to any change in the body's routine.
Caffeine withdrawal may be another culprit. If you usually drink three or four cups of tea or coffee on week days to help you concentrate at work, but don't at the weekend, your body can go into withdrawal.
It's thought caffeine also interferes with the chemical messenger that widens blood vessels in the brain - without it, these vessels narrow again, triggering a headache.
The risks of weekend gardening
Going outside to rake leaves after a week behind a desk is a recipe for injury, says Professor Tony Kochhar, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at South London Healthcare NHS Trust and BMI The Sloane Hospital.
"Unlike sporting exercise, there's no warm-up. People plunge straight into the garden and, say, start digging. As a result you're more vulnerable to spasm and strains of the lower back, as well as damage to the tissues."
Mowing the lawn without warming up increases the risk of back injury. Photo / Thinkstock
To minimise the risk, Professor Kochhar suggests warming up inside by mimicking the movements you'll be doing in the garden, such as raking or digging.
"Stretching is not enough and can actually be quite harmful as it tightens the muscles, so you are more prone to injury."
Slumping on the sofa and heartburn
back on the sofa in front of the TV for hours watching Strictly and all your favourites after a week of running around can make heartburn worse - or even trigger it, as slouching puts pressure on the stomach, forcing acid up the gullet, says Steven Mann, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Free London Trust.
Acid reflux can also become a problem at the weekend because of less regular meal times as a result of late nights and lie-ins, explains Dr Mann. The gut's production of acid can go into overdrive when you haven't eaten for a while.
And having a takeaway could be the final straw. "Greasy, fatty food stimulates acid production, which can also cause problems such as heartburn and bloating," Dr Mann adds.
Diets go out the window
It's easier to diet in the week as meal times tend to be more regulated, explains Cary Cooper, professor of psychology and health at the University of Lancaster.
"At the weekend we lose that routine, so it makes dieting harder. There's also a culture of psychological reward: I've worked hard all week, why shouldn't I eat what I like?"
Saturday is the worst day of the week for slimmers, concluded researchers in the journal Obesity in 2008, after they asked 48 menopausal women who were on diets to keep food diaries.
We're more likely to throw diets out the window on the weekend. Photo / Thinkstock
And an analysis of the diets of 11,000 households in the UK revealed weekend treats, such as buttered toast, takeaways and full-fat milky coffees, push our intake of saturated fat well above the recommended daily limit.
The survey by Unilever found that men ate 61g a day on Saturday and Sunday - more than twice their recommended maximum of just 30g a day (it's 20g for women).
Pitfalls of time with loved ones
While some people may find that their stress levels drop when they come home from work, others may find that walking through their front door actually causes stress levels to rise.
Earlier this year, researchers at Penn State University found people had significantly lower levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, when they were at the office compared with when they were at home. This was true for both men and women, and parents and people without children.
"The problem for many people is that they can spend the weekend running from one activity to another - taxi-ing children to events or taking a family member shopping, which they wouldn't do in the week," explains Dr Sandi Mann, senior lecturer in occupational psychology at the University of Central Lancashire.
"Spending time with family can also be quite stressful because of conflicting emotional pressures about what people want to do. Then, of course, there are all the practical jobs we have to fit in at the weekend. That's why going to work can seem like so much more of a rest."
Weekend drinking bad for cardiac health
If you abstain all week then relax with a bottle of wine at the weekend, not only could this count as binge drinking, it can trigger an abnormal heartbeat.
Known as holiday heart syndrome, the condition can cause palpitations, breathlessness and sometimes chest pain - possibly because alcohol prompts the release of adrenaline.
Drinks on the weekend could be bad for your heart. Photo / Thinkstock
A couple of large glasses of wine in a session is enough to trigger it, according to Jonathan Clague, consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital, West London.
Although symptoms usually disappear within 48 hours, repeat binges can do permanent damage, meaning many affected may go on to develop a long-term irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), causing the heart to race or quiver.
Meanwhile, a study by Boston University earlier this year found that 'moderate drinkers' who drank most of their weekly alcohol units in one go were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who drank the same amount overall, but spread their drinking out throughout the week.
A 'binge' is classed as more than six units in one sitting for a woman and eight for a man. Two large (250ml) glasses of wine can contain as much as seven units, depending on the strength.
TV in bed is bad for your back
Curling up in bed with a laptop or tablet to watch films or telly is bad news for backs. The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) says that people hunch over the screen with their spine unsupported, causing back or neck pain.
The BCA's Tim Hutchful says: "Nearly half of people have trouble sleeping due to back or neck pain. Many of my patients who can't sleep resort to a laptop or a mobile phone to help them get to sleep, for example to watch a film, but it could further prevent them from sleeping."
To avoid this, support your back with a pillow, and make sure the screen is at eye level.
Don't forget your medicine
"People often come in at weekends and ask what to do because they've missed a dose," says Sean Woodward, a community pharmacist based in Stoke-on-Trent.
Trips away and lie-ins are the most likely cause.
"The answer is to just take the next pill as soon as you can," he says.
Forgetting to take your pills is a weekend hazard. Photo / Thinkstock
And it does matter - forgetting to take blood-pressure tablets just once could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke by 40 per cent, according to research by the University of Glasgow.
Dramatic swings in blood pressure cause stretching and relaxing of blood vessels, making them prone to tear.
The gym can cause heart attacks
Hitting the gym or going for long cycle rides to compensate for lack of exercise during the week can be dangerous for the heart.
Nicknamed 'weekend warriors', people who only exercise at the weekend can over-tax themselves far more than those who exercise regularly. They may even do themselves more harm than people with a more sedentary existence.
While regular workouts reduce a person's overall risk of cardiac arrest, any single bout of exercise, say at the weekend, increases risk of a heart attack at that moment, according to research by Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
The problem for people who only exercise at the weekend, then do it too energetically, is that their heart is running at maximum capacity, explains Dr John Dearing, a sports injury surgeon at Glen Hospital in Ayr. This means their heart struggles to pump enough blood around the body.
"They have a lack of cardiac reserve [the difference between the rate the heart pumps and its maximum capacity to pump blood around the body, this can be improved by steady, regular exercise].
"Blood pressure rises to compensate for this, because they aren't accustomed to regular exercise. So if there is some residual damage, such as furring of the arteries, this can lead to clots that could cause a heart attack."
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