The University of Edinburgh in Scotland announced findings from a recent study looking at the effects of sunlight on heart health. The Scottish researchers have found that when sunlight hits the skin, a compound is released in blood vessels that causes blood pressure to drop. Lower blood pressure may reduce risks for heart attacks and strokes, and even lead to a longer lifespan. In a University press release, Dr. Richard Weller was quoted saying “we suspect that the benefits of sunlight to heart health will outweigh the risk of skin cancer.”
Regardless, it is still generally regarded that exposure to too much sunlight can be a health problem. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can lead skin cancers, sunburns which cause early aging and other skin growths that can also lead to cancer. However, the sun can also bring other health benefits such as causing the body to produce vitamin D which maintains healthy bones and allows for better muscle movement and brain function. This research found that UV light also leads to the production of nitric oxide, a compound that is known to lower blood pressure. This leads researchers to conclude that just taking a vitamin D supplement alone is not good enough to reduce blood pressure.
Other experts have been critical of this study and point out that there are other blood pressure interventions that do not involve the risks associated with getting too much sunlight. More research is needed to be sure of the benefits of sunlight and the research team plans to expand their work into larger-scale studies. But still, maybe someday your doctor will give you a prescription for a beach vacation instead of a medication. Who knows? That’s the exciting beauty of research and innovation—anything is possible! Watch the video of Dr. Weller speaking about his research here: http://on.ted.com/Weller If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or had a heart attack or stroke please consider participating in one of our clinical research studies.