For many health reasons, we’ve been told not to sit out in the sun for too long. However, we don’t hear much about why the sun can be beneficial to our health as well. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh discovered how the incredible powers of the sun can cause our bodies to release critical compounds that improve our health and extend our lives. Find out how catching some rays could help you lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, protect you from stroke, and possibly save your life.
The study examined 24 participants, aiming to determine the effects of ultraviolet light exposure on blood pressure. Participants took part in two 20 minute sessions; in the first session, the participants sat under tanning lamps and were exposed to both UV rays and heat. In the second session, the UV rays were blocked and they were only exposed to heat. The results of this study showed that when participants were exposed to UV rays and heat, their blood pressure significantly dropped. The same did not hold true when they were only exposed to heat.
The researchers state that the new protective role of UV exposure on blood pressure and heart disease outweighs the risks associated with UV exposure, most notably, skin cancer. Stroke and heart disease are more common causes of death than skin cancer, and measured exposures to UV light may be precisely what we’ve been missing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, with heart disease accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States each year. Stroke is also a leading cause of death; according to the CDC, it accounts for 1 in 19 deaths yearly in the United States. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are other known leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke, so taking control of any of these risk factors will help to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.
While skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, far fewer people die from skin cancer than heart disease and stroke. In 2009, 9,199 people in the United States died from skin cancer. Conversely, heart disease accounts for approximately 600,000 deaths each year in the U.S. and stroke accounts for 130,000 deaths each year in the U.S. yearly.
The study bore some limitations in scope, basing its findings on only 24 participants. While further research is needed to evaluate the findings on a larger scale, previous research has already shown how necessary sunshine is to ensure we get adequate amounts of natural vitamin D, and all of the critical health benefits it provides. While sun exposure shouldn’t be overdone, try and get twenty minutes of outdoor sun exposure a day without sunblock.