Intense Light and Chronically Timed Therapy May Benefit Heart Health

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A new study from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus suggests that managing circadian rhythms through intense light and chronically timed therapy holds promise in preventing and treating various circulatory system conditions, including heart disease.

Published in Circulation Research, an official journal of the American Heart Association, the research underscores the profound impact of circadian rhythms on cardiovascular function and disease development. The investigation, led by Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, reviewed current research highlighting the efficacy of intense light therapy post-surgery.

"The impact of circadian rhythms on cardiovascular function and disease development is well established," said Dr. Eckle. "However, translational preclinical studies targeting the heart's circadian biology are just now emerging and are leading to the development of a novel field of medicine termed circadian medicine."

Intense light therapy utilizes light to treat cardiac injury and administers drugs at specific times to align with the body's internal clock for accelerated healing. "The treatments are almost all low-risk,” explained Dr. Eckle. “Some involve using light boxes, and others use drugs that are already on the market."

The findings showed that intense light therapy post-surgery can aid recovery and prevent cardiac injury by regulating genes and electrical signals in the heart. Administering drugs at specific times aligned with the body's internal clock also shows promise in accelerating healing processes. Dr. Eckle added that, in his practice, he's seen light therapy demonstrate reduced troponin levels, a key protein indicating heart attack or stroke.

According to Dr. Eckle, the study highlights the essential role of light in synchronizing circadian rhythms, with intense light triggering protective mechanisms in the heart.

"Circadian rhythms play a crucial role in cardiovascular health, influencing the timing of onset and severity of cardiovascular events and contributing to the healing process from disease," Dr. Eckle said. "Studies in humans are clearly required. Regarding intense light therapy, chronotherapy, and restricted feeding are low-risk strategies that should be tested sooner than later."