Heart disease, in all its forms, is a very common problem. It’s the leading cause of death in Australia and most countries around the world. Another very common related problem is sunlight deficiency and yet few have even heard of this. There are at least two reasons that low levels of exposure to sunshine are contributing to heart disease and I’ll explain both and what we can do about it. It’s not as crazy as it first sounds.
No surprise here. Studies have shown that heart disease is more prevalent in northern countries compared to southern countries (northern hemisphere). This is thought to be due, in part, to lower levels of sunlight exposure which can lead to vitamin D deficiency.
North of 40° and south of 40° latitude there is no available ultraviolet light during wintertime and people in these locations must “rely on food sources and supplementation to maintain serum vitamin D at a sufficient level”.1 Even if you are outside these ranges, it is still very common to not get enough sunshine for various reasons such as adiposity, clothing habits, cloud cover, pollution, skin pigmentation and genetic factors.
When you dig into the research the evidence strongly suggests that “chronic and often decades-long vitamin D deficiency….. are important in the pathophysiology of ischemic heart disease, hypertension, myocardial hypertrophy, diastolic heart failure, and the metabolic syndrome”.2
The condensed version is when you have sunlight deficiency you don’t produce enough Vitamin D, and this in turn contributes to higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
Photobiomodulation (PBM) is a non-invasive therapy that involves the use of red and near infrared light, typically in the form of lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), to stimulate cellular function and promote healing in the body.
We naturally get this from the sun. Red and near infrared are the dominant wavelengths (as compared to UV light) at sunrise and sunset. So, if we are outside for sunrise and sunset, we get the photobiomodulation dose we are designed to get. When was the last sunrise you witnessed? Our ancestors did and it’s not likely a coincidence that heart disease rates have been rising in modern times.
With respect to cardiovascular diseases, the therapeutic benefits of PBM therapy include “ischemia-perfusion injury, myocardial infarction, hypertension, stroke, myocardial infarction, and aortic aneurysm formation”3 This is quite a lengthy list of heart benefits from red and near infrared light.
The condensed version here is the same as Vitamin D in that when you apply PBM there is less heart disease.
When we accept that a lack of sunshine is having a negative impact on our heart health we can take steps to rectify it. There are three things you can do.
- Spend time in the sun. Healthy time. Too much UV light in your attempt to get Vitamin D is clearly linked to skin cancer. Witness the sunrise and sunset when you can.
- Vitamin D supplementation. A high-quality Vitamin D supplement will ensure you have healthy levels in your tissues.
- Use a photobiomodulation device. There are all kinds of panels and devices available to use. Here are several examples.
Sunlight deficiency is a more significant issue than most are aware of. Our ancestors spent time in the sun. When we don’t spend enough time outside we risk being low in Vitamin D and we don’t get the full photobiomodulation dose. The combination of these two deficiencies contributes to cardiovascular disease. More research needs to be conducted to fully determine the extent of the problem. In the meantime, the solutions outlined are easily available and easy to implement.
- Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007 Jul 19;357(3):266-81. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra070553. PMID: 17634462.
- Wallis DE, Penckofer S, Sizemore GW. The “sunshine deficit” and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2008 Sep 30;118(14):1476-85. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.713339. Erratum in: Circulation. 2009 Jun 2;119(21):e550. PMID: 18824654.
- Syed SB, Ahmet I, Chakir K, Morrell CH, Arany PR, Lakatta EG. Photobiomodulation therapy mitigates cardiovascular aging and improves survival. Lasers Surg Med. 2023 Mar;55(3):278-293. doi: 10.1002/lsm.23644. Epub 2023 Feb 23. PMID: 36821717; PMCID: PMC10084725.
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