A popular skin cream that you buy in the pharmacy could save your life if you're having a heart attack, scientists have discovered this week.
Any skin cream or salve that contains capsaicin - which has a warming sensation on the skin, and which is usually used for pain relief and easing aches - can protect the heart during an attack, and could prevent serious long-term damage to it.
Researchers have discovered that the cream reduced cardiac cell death during an attack by as much as 85 per cent. Lead researcher Keith Jones from the University of Cincinnati said: "These are the most powerful cardio-protective effects recorded to date."
Up to now Jones's research has been restricted to laboratory mice, but he's confident that the cream will have the same life-saving benefits on humans. Neal Weintraub, a leading cardiologist who has worked with Dr Jones, believes that capsaicin - the active ingredient in chilli peppers - activates sensors on the skin's surface that trigger signals in the nervous system which, in turn, protect the heart.
"We think that this technique is fooling the body into sending out protective signals," Jones added.
(Source: Circulation, 2009; 120: S1-9).