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Can Sunshine Help Lower Your Blood Pressure?

March 5, 2014

If you have a taste of the winter weather blues, there might be one more good reason to look forward to warmer temperatures and sunnier days.

sunshine lower blood pressureA recent study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that light exposure increased participants’ nitric oxide levels and led to a slight decline in blood pressure. While the results were not overly significant, it might explain why blood pressure is generally higher in the winter months than in summer months.

However, don’t trade your blood pressure medication out for a sun lamp—the study only studied a sample size of 24 participants during two 20-minute sessions of ultraviolent A light exposure, which is too small or a participant pool to make any big claims. For the first session, participants felt the heat and the light, but were only exposed to the heat for the second session. During the session when participants were exposed to the light, researchers noticed dilated blood vessels and a decrease in blood pressure, but not only any significant terms.

The researchers concluded that nitric oxide from the skin might be an overlooked contributor to cardiovascular health and circulation, but more tests and research are needed to know the full effect.

So, while sunshine isn’t enough to control high blood pressure, the study indicates that it might be a good excuse to get outside and catch a few extra rays. High blood pressure can be very dangerous and needs to be controlled by doctor recommendations—not sun lamps. However, spending a moderate amount of time in the sun has been shown to improve mood and is also good for increasing your Vitamin D levels, which are important for heart health.

We’ll end on a reminder that, as you’re looking forward to spring, be mindful about your time in the sun and take proper precautions to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Wear sunscreen, protect your eyes and be sure to take frequent breaks in the shade on especially hot days.

What sunny weather activities are you most looking forward to this spring? Share your thoughts on the effect of sunlight on blood pressure in the comments section below.

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photo credit: Billy Wilson Photography