Something we often take for granted, something as basic as light, may help protect our hearts.
Researchers from the University of Colorado say a week of exposure to intense light therapy led to better healing among mice who suffered cardiac tissue damage. A main cause of such damage is the lack of oxygen that occurs during a heart attack.
According to a study published in Cell Reports, mice benefit from light exposure through increased activation of a gene that emits heart-protective biochemicals. These biochemicals, the research showed, help strengthen blood vessel walls and help damaged tissue heal faster. Mice exposed to the intense light had smaller areas of damaged tissue. They also were able to walk longer distances in a single exercise session.
Interestingly, mice that were blind did not benefit. That means the light has to be perceived visually, not just felt on the skin, to be effective.
Could light therapy work for people? The research also included initial testing in humans. After 30 minutes each day of intense light exposure, blood tests showed people had greater levels of the heart-protecting biochemicals. They also showed lower levels of triglycerides. Triglyceride level is an indicator of cardiovascular risk.
The scientists say they believe intense light therapy can help prevent and treat tissue damage that occurs during a heart attack. Light therapy might one day be standard care for heart patients.
Which raises the question: Does sunbathing on the beach count? A cool breeze, a comfy lounge chair and some sand between the toes would add up to one awfully appealing way to boost heart health. Sign us up!