The Earth turns on its axis every 24 h; almost all life on the planet has a mechanism — circadian rhythmicity — to anticipate the daily changes caused by this rotation. The molecular clocks that control circadian rhythms are being revealed as important regulators of physiology and disease. In humans, circadian rhythms have been studied extensively in the cardiovascular system. Many cardiovascular functions, such as endothelial function, thrombus formation, blood pressure and heart rate, are now known to be regulated by the circadian clock. Additionally, the onset of acute myocardial infarction, stroke, arrhythmias and other adverse cardiovascular events show circadian rhythmicity. In this Review, we summarize the role of the circadian clock in all major cardiovascular cell types and organs. Second, we discuss the role of circadian rhythms in cardiovascular physiology and disease. Finally, we postulate how circadian rhythms can serve as a therapeutic target by exploiting or altering molecular time to improve existing therapies and develop novel ones.
Full Access Link: Nature Reviews Cardiology