How Does Red Light Therapy Help the Cardiovascular System?
All lifestyle interventions that support cardiovascular health work act to strengthen and support the heart and blood vessels. The cardiovascular system consists of vessels and organs that rely on the efficient contraction of smooth muscle and flow of blood that carries vital nutrients. It requires a lot of energy to support the functions of the cardiovascular system, which is generated by mitochondria in cells that produce ATP. Red light supports cardiovascular health in the following ways:
- Increases Energy Production – Light is absorbed in cells by molecules called chromophores, many of which are found inside the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, which make the energy currency of the cell known as ATP. Through its effects on mitochondria, light therapy can increase cellular energy production. In the cardiovascular system, problems with energy metabolism manifest early in many diseases, and energy disturbances play an important role in disease pathology. Supporting energy production would yield benefits throughout the cardiovascular system.
- Decreases Oxidative Stress – Mitochondria are also involved in regulating the production of molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which play a role in normal cellular function but can be harmful in high amounts. This is known as oxidative stress. In the cardiovascular system, oxidative stress is recognized as a “major trigger” for cardiovascular disease and decreasing oxidative stress would be broadly beneficial.
- Reduces Inflammation – As described by Dr. Michael Hamblin, former Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, “one of the most reproducible effects of [light therapy] is an overall reduction of inflammation”. Studies have found that light therapy affects levels of many molecules involved in inflammation, including reactive nitrogen species and prostaglandins. Like oxidative stress, inflammation is recognized as being a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and decreasing inflammation would reduce disease risk.
- Increases Vasodilation – Vasodilation is widening or relaxation of the blood vessels. As already described, increased vasodilation reduces blood pressure. Vasodilation also increases the flow of blood throughout the body, which delivers nutrients and oxygen to cells. When red and near infrared light are absorbed by molecules in mitochondria, the process by which ATP production increases also has the effect of increasing levels of nitric oxide. Increasing vasodilation would have a wide range of cardiovascular benefits.
- Increasing Angiogenesis – Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. Angiogenesis is an important part of recovery from cardiovascular injuries that involve blockage of blood flow, such as heart attacks and stroke. Red light therapy has been found to increase angiogenesis after a heart attack in animal models, and might prove to be a useful tool to support cardiovascular tissue healing in humans.
These effects may help in both the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, and although more research is needed to clarify the role of red light therapy in supporting cardiovascular health, preliminary evidence suggests that it could have many positive benefits. Because red light therapy has an amazing safety profile, and since benefits are expected to be across multiple body systems, there really is no downside to incorporating it into a regular wellness regimen.
Dr. Genevieve Newton, DC, PhD spent close to 20 years as a researcher and educator in the field of nutritional sciences before joining Fringe as its Scientific Director. Gen’s job is to “bring the science” that supports Fringe’s products and education. She is passionate about all things Fringe, and is a deep believer in healing body, mind and spirit using the gifts of the natural world.
The contents in this blog; such as text, content, graphics are intended for educational purposes only. The Content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider.
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