Sunlight, like CPR, aspirin and blood clot busters can now be added to the list of therapies to treat heart attacks, a new study suggests.
The findings, published April 15 in the journal Nature Medicine, suggest that strong light and even daylight could reduce the risk of patients having a heart attack or suffering damage after experiencing one.
Study authors Doctors Eckle and Holger Eltzschig of the University of Colorado Denver, suggested that heat attack victims may even recover quicker if they are exposed to sunlight.
Researchers found that the answer lies in the circadian rhythm or body clock, which is linked to light and dark, is regulated by proteins in organs like the brain and the heart, and a protein called Period 2, plays a vital role in defending the heart against damage from a heart attack.
They explain that during a heart attack, very little or no oxygen reaches the heart, and without oxygen the heart has the shift its metabolism from fat, its usual energy source, to glucose, to protect heart cells from dying.
In daylight, the circadian rhythm activates the production of the Period 2 protein in mice. Period 2, which plays a large role in makes heart metabolism more efficient by changing the fuel from fat to glucose, bolsters the heart against injuries and minimizes heart attack damage.
"The study suggests that strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one," Professor Eckle at the University of Colorado School of Medicine said in a statement. "For patients, this could mean that daylight exposure inside of the hospital could reduce the damage that is caused by a heart attack."
Researchers noted that additional research is needed for scientists to understand how light is able to change heart metabolism in humans, and how light exposure can be harnessed to treat heart attacks in patients.