According to a report published in the journal Cell Reports, intense light therapy may help to protect the heart from tissue damage and boost heart health; findings suggest this could potentially be helpful to those who have had a heart attack, especially before surgery.
“If the therapy is given before high risk cardiac and non-cardiac surgery, it could offer protection against injury to the heart muscle which can be fatal,” said Dr. Tobias Eckle, one of the authors of the study.
Light plays an important role in human health, it regulates the circadian rhythm and affects cardiovascular health which is demonstrated by the fact that within America records show that more heart attacks occur during the darker winter months even in the sunny states.
The researchers were working to develop a cardioprotective strategy using light to target and manipulate functions of the PER2 gene, this is a protein that is expressed in a region of the brain that controls circadian rhythms. Mice were subject to intense light which was found to boost the PER2 gene, and this led to enhanced cardioprotection, especially during low oxygen conditions. Cardiac adenosine was also heightened; this is a specialized chemical that helps with blood flow regulation. However, it was noted that blind mice didn’t experience the same benefit which suggests that visual light perception is a prerequisite for this therapy.
In the next phase, healthy humans were exposed to 10,000 lumens of light for 30 minutes on 5 consecutive mornings, which was found to increase the PER2 gene while lowering plasma triglycerides and improving metabolism.
“We already knew that intense light can protect against heart attacks, but now we have found the mechanism behind it,” added Dr. Eckle. “Giving patients light therapy for a week before surgery could increase cardioprotection.”
These findings could be relevant to the prevention and treatment of myocardial ischemia, which is a condition in which blow flow of the heart muscle is obstructed by plaque buildup; rupturing of these plaques is what causes a heart attack.
Being adequately exposed to natural light may have important benefits to human health and well being. It helps to boost vitamin D production in the skin and this plays important roles in the immune system and bone health. Sun exposure also helps to ward off mood changes that are associated with season changes. Research also suggests that the amount of sun exposure a person gets can affect how much sleep one gets at night, but artificial light has been shown to have very little to no effect, and it can even elevate the stress response.