The ultraviolet rays in sunshine may help improve your heart health by lowering blood pressure, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Edinburgh.
When sunlight hits your skin, your body forms nitric oxide and releases it into your blood vessels. This compound can help lower blood pressure.
The effect of sunlight on the body could have significant benefits, given that high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. While skin cancer from sun exposure continues to be a concern, deaths from heart disease and stroke are 60 to 100 times higher than those from melanoma in regions with less-than-average sunlight, such as northern Europe.
"We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer," Richard Weller, one of the study's authors and a senior lecturer in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, told Medical News Today.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers put 24 volunteers under tanning lamps for two, 20-minute sessions. One session included UV rays, while the other only had heat. After exposure to the UV rays, subjects' blood pressure dropped for 50 minutes. Researchers did not see a similar affect after the sessions with only heat.