In a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers have found that intense light may help lower the risk of getting a heart attack. For patients, this could mean protecting the heart from further damage as well.

Exactly how can exposure to strong daylight make a difference?

According to University of Colorado medical school researchers, you don’t get as much oxygen as you need when you’re having a heart attack. During this crisis, your body has little choice left but to forego fat—its usual fuel—and make do with glucose instead. If your body fails to make this happen, cells die and your heart sustains damage.

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To make this substitution easier, researchers theorize that we can rely on a protein called Period 2—one of the brain proteins which regulates our circadian rhythm, which, in turn, is linked to light and dark. Since strong daylight has been known to awaken Period 2 in animals and lessen damage caused by a heart attack, researchers hope that the same results can be replicated in humans.

Despite the promising lead, study authors say that more research needs to be done. The study has brought up more questions than answers. For example, how exactly will intense light influence heart metabolism in humans? How feasible is this theory in treating patients? Perhaps an answer will surface in time. For now, it's still a good idea to engage in heart-healthy activities and follow a proper diet. Plus, while it's good for you to get some sun, too much may raise your risk of sun burn, heat stroke, and even skin cancer.

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(Photo by Slavomir Ulicny via sxc.hu)

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