Red Light After Heart Attacks

Heart attacks are due to blockage of blood flow to a part of the heart, which can cause that area of the heart tissue to die. Heart attacks are also known as “myocardial infarctions” – “myocardial” because they affect the heart muscle, and “infarction” because they cause muscle tissue death. Heart attack severity ranges from mild to fatal, and treatments often involve surgery and long term use of medications. Over 800,000 people in the US have heart attacks every year. 

Research looking at the effect of red light therapy on heart attacks has been focused on recovery and healing after a heart attack has occurred. Many studies have been conducted, using a wide range of animal models. In 2016, a review of 14 studies determined that red light therapy reduced “infarct size”; that is, the amount of damaged heart tissue. A more recent analysis published in 2021 further determined that benefits were due to reductions in mitochondrial damage, decreased inflammation, and formation of new blood vessels. While most research in this area has used laser lights, the authors cite many advantages to using LED light sources, including lower cost, ease of use, and better safety. 

Heart attacks increase the risk of heart failure, which is when the heart lacks the strength to distribute blood effectively throughout the body. Heart failure is also caused by problems with the valves in the heart, heart muscle disease, and congenital heart defects.

In a small study of patients aged 35 to 65 with heart failure, treatment with red laser light to the quadriceps muscle in the leg reduced the perception of muscle fatigue and decreased the production of muscle lactic acid. Although it isn’t clear that light therapy impacted the cardiovascular system directly, it does appear to help patients suffering from heart failure and may be a useful adjunct to standard medical therapy. 

Although more research is needed to understand how red light therapy can be used to support recovery from heart attacks in humans, we do know that red light therapy has many heart friendly benefits, including as increasing energy production, decreasing oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and increasing vasodilation. When using red light therapy to target the cardiovascular system, it is our recommendation to broadly apply light to areas including the upper chest and thighs to deliver light to as much of the body as possible for general cardiovascular health. We have a lot of blood vessels at the surface of the skin, all of which will benefit from the application of red and near infrared light. Light can be applied using a red light panel or wrap that goes around the body.

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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