The Skin Is a Mirror to the Heart

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It’s been said that the eyes are the mirror to the soul, but have you heard that the skin is a mirror to the heart? As your largest organ, your skin is literally your armor, the protective barrier between the outside world and inside your body. It turns out, how quickly your skin heals may also help doctors know how well you’ll bounce back if you were to have a heart attack.

A heart attack happens when oxygen-rich blood going to the heart is cut off or interrupted. In the U.S., someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. An estimated 20% of these attacks are silent, which means there is damage to the heart muscle but the heart attack didn’t cause symptoms. Recovery from a heart attack depends on how severe it is, including how long your heart was deprived of blood and nutrients. The amount and location of the scar tissue that forms around the heart muscle after a heart attack also plays a role in how well you recover.

A new study in mice published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology suggests that faster wound healing may correlate with quicker healing of the heart muscle and increased survival rates after a heart attack. The researchers looked at blood from the mice and from human volunteers to see the cellular processes that make skin wounds heal. They found that the skin and heart use some of the same pathways for tissue repair and that the healing pattern in one organ can predict patterns in the other. According to the researchers, “the skin is a mirror to the heart.” Medical professionals may be able to use information about how fast a wound heals as a screening tool to predict if people have a higher risk of developing heart failure.

February is American Heart Month. Learn more about your heart and how to keep it healthy to prevent a heart attack.

Erica Roth

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