Sunlight could help to lower blood pressure
by Ralph Kratzer
Summer is back again! The weather is warming up and people start to fill the beaches….
The following article shows good news on the one hand but on the other hand, the risks of too long and intensive unprotected sunbathing!
Spending 20 minutes in the sun could help to lower your risk of heart disease, scientists have claimed.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that exposure to ultraviolet light lowered the blood pressure of volunteers.
Scientists say the findings may lead them to reconsider current advice for sun exposure.
The scientists believe that UV rays in sunlight cause nitrogen stored in the body to be released into the blood stream, relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
However, excessive exposure to UV light is also known to be a major cause of skin cancer, so experts have warned the public against spending too much time in the sun unprotected.
Dr Richard Weller, a senior lecturer in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh who led the research, cautioned that more work needs to be done before they were able to offer advice to patients about using sunlight as a treatment for high blood pressure.
He said: “We now plan to look at the relative risks of heart disease and skin cancer in people who have received different amounts of sun exposure. If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure. We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer.”
The researchers, who are presenting their findings at the International Investigative Dermatology Conference in Edinburgh, studied the blood pressure of 24 volunteers.
The scientists found while after receiving UV light, the volunteers’ blood pressure dropped and remained lower than before exposure for up to an hour.
When the volunteers were exposed to heat but no UV light from the tanning lamps, their blood pressure also dropped during exposure but then quickly increased back to previous levels.
Laboratory tests also showed that skin cells exposed to UV light released nitric oxide, a nitrogen based chemical that is known to cause blood vessels to relax.
UV from sunlight is known to have a number of benefits by helping the body produce vitamin D, but it is also the main cause of damage that causes skin cancer.
Nina Goad, from the British Association of Dermatologists, warned that the latest findings were still in their early stages as the study had been very small.
She said: “Research in this area is still very much in its infancy. Emerging evidence about possible health benefits of sunlight do not invalidate the indisputable weight of evidence showing the link between excess UV exposure and skin cancer, which is the UK’s most common form of cancer.”
Dr Clare Walton, research communications officer at the Stroke Association, added: “We know that moderate exposure to sunshine can have multiple health benefits, however this is the first time that the link between sunshine and stroke risk has been explored.
The results show that sun exposure can reduce blood pressure, which is the biggest risk factor for stroke. It will be interesting to see how long these positive effects last and whether sunshine can play a role in reducing stroke risk.
However, it’s an extremely small study and a lot more research is needed. It’s also important to remember that exposure to excess sunshine can be harmful to our health and everyone should take the necessary precautions this summer.”
Source: The Telegraph – Richard Gray, Science Correspondent