Melatonin and the cardiovascular system.Neuro Endocrinol Lett 2002; 23 Suppl 1:79-83NE
Melatonin concentrations in serum, as well as urinary levels of its main metabolite, 6-sulphatoxymelatonin, decrease with age. In the course of aging, the frequency of heart diseases, both acute and chronic, systematically increases. The evidence from the last 10 years suggests that melatonin influences the cardiovascular system. The presence of vascular melatoninergic receptors/binding sites has been demonstrated; these receptors are functionally linked with vasoconstrictor or vasodilatory effects of melatonin. Melatonin can contribute in cardioprotection of the rat heart, following myocardial ischemia. It has been shown that patients with coronary heart disease have a low melatonin production rate, especially those with higher risk of cardiac infarction and/or sudden death. There are clinical data reporting some alterations of melatonin in human stroke and coronary heart disease. The suprachiasmatic nucleus and, possibly, the melatoninergic system may also modulate cardiovascular rhythmicity. Hypercholesterolemia and hypertension are the other age-related symptoms. People with high levels of LDL-cholesterol have low levels of melatonin. It has been shown that melatonin suppresses the formation of cholesterol by 38% and reduces LDL accumulation by 42%. A 10-20% reduction of cholesterol concentration in women using the B-oval pill has been observed. It is a very important because, even a 10-15% reduction in blood cholesterol concentration has bee shown to result in a 20 to 30% decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease. People with hypertension have lower melatonin levels than those with normal blood pressure. The administration of the hormone in question declines blood pressure to normal range. It has been observed that melatonin, even in a dose 1 mg, reduced blood pressure and decreased catecholamine level after 90 min in human subjects. Melatonin may reduce blood pressure via the following mechanisms: 1) by a direct effect on the hypothalamus; 2) as an antioxidant which lowers blood pressure; 3) by decreasing the level of catecholamines, or 4) by relaxing the smooth muscle in the aorta wall.