Produced after the day fades into night, the hormone melatonin is most widely known for its role in sleep. However, as important as sleep is to overall health and well-being, inducing sleep is far from the only task that melatonin performs in the body: Medical researchers have known for decades that melatonin also has a role in cardiovascular health.
New research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, provides deeper insights into melatonin heart-health benefits, offering a tantalizing glimpse at what the study authors described as “the molecular mechanisms” involved in the cardioprotective activities of this hormone.
Researchers Point to Multiple Melatonin Heart Health Benefits
The result of work done by an international team of researchers, the Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine study offered a variety of fascinating findings describing the ways that melatonin can be beneficial to heart health. Citing numerous prior studies, the study examined a number of the properties of melatonin researchers have uncovered throughout the years of research done on this hormone.
The researchers describe melatonin as being an immunomodulatory and cardioprotective agent and also noted the hormone’s anti-inflammatory, vasomotor, antioxidant and metabolic activities, all of which have health-health benefit potentials.
Melatonin Can Act as a Cardioprotective Agent
Melatonin can act as a cardioprotective agent in a variety of ways. This is due in part to its role in mitochondrial functions, including helping to protect mitochondria from damage and, when they are damaged, aided in the processes involved in mitochondrial repair. When mitochondria are damaged beyond repair, melatonin also has a role in destroying dangerously damaged mitochondria.
These cellular-level actions can be of critical importance when it comes to limiting lasting damage when blood flow to tissues is restored after a stroke or heart attack. There is also some evidence indicating that melatonin can help improve the process of recovery after a heart attack.
Research has shown that, again due to its role in mitochondrial functions — more specifically relating to signaling pathways — melatonin can help protect the heart from the cardiotoxicity that is a side effect associated with Doxorubicin, a widely used anticancer chemotherapeutic drug. While Doxorubicin negatively impacts the heart in a number of ways, it can have a heavy impact on the mitochondria because that is where it accumulates, harming mitochondrial membranes, disrupting the balance of protein types and causing the malfunction and death of the cardiac cells responsible for keeping the heart beating rhythmically.
Aside from its positive impact on mitochondrial activity, melatonin also plays an important role in keeping the heart beating regularly and preventing arrhythmia. That may be why the hormone seems to help mitigate the side effects of Doxorubicin. The antiarrhythmic properties of melatonin relate to the way the hormone interacts on a molecular level with what is basically the electrical system of the heart and its involvement with signaling and communication between cells, which is conducted via various chemical reactions and interactions. That is the language of the body and the brain – electrical impulses and chemical interactions – highly complex and utterly amazing.
Other Ways Melatonin Promotes Heart Health
Melatonin helps to control factors that can contribute to cardiovascular diseases, heart attack and stroke. Medical researchers have known for decades that people with coronary heart disease tend to have lower melatonin production rates. Melatonin has been shown to help control high blood pressure, with as little as 1 mg producing results. Another study focusing on men with hypertension found that taking a 2.5 mg melatonin supplement one hour before going to bed helps to keep blood pressure lower. Melatonin has also been shown to help reduce the formation and accumulation of cholesterol. That reduction in cholesterol can translate into reduced risk of heart disease.
The hormone also has powerful antioxidant properties, working quite efficiently to reduce oxidative stress and scavenging toxic radicals, including the hydroxyl radical. Part of the antioxidant actions of melatonin involve stimulating antioxidant enzymes. These actions vitally important to the long-term health and functioning of the heart.
Self-Produced Melatonin and Melatonin Supplements
As daylight fades, our bodies produce melatonin naturally in preparation for nighttime sleep. However, this process is easily disrupted nowadays with our modern, artificially lit lifestyles.
Exposure to light, particularly the blue light emitted by LED lighting, florescent lights and many of our devices, including mobile phones and tablets, during the evening can delay or reduce melatonin production. That suppression of melatonin production can make it more difficult to enjoy the potential health benefits and protections this hormone has to offer.
Lifestyle changes can help improve and maintain healthy melatonin production. A melatonin supplement may be a great option while developing more melatonin friendly lifestyle habits. For those already dealing with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular system issues, talk to your health care provider before adding a melatonin supplement to your daily routine for advice on dosage and timing.