I’m not sure about you, but I don’t have to be sold on sunshine. I love it. I love the way the sunshine feels and find that it makes nearly everything more enjoyable. During these dark, cold winter months, I long to get back outside and enjoy the warm, bright days of summer.
Of course, there are some risks associated with spending too much time in the sun. There is sufficient evidence to support that too much unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays can lead to skin cancer and other problems. However, there are a number of defenses available offering protection from these harmful realities.
Although sunlight can cause problems for people who experience lengthy unprotected exposure, it also offers health benefits. The sun provides vitamin D and can improve the moods of people suffering from SAD and also encourage people to get out and exercise. A new study is even showing the sun’s rays can improve blood pressure.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland conducted a study on sunlight’s ability to lower blood pressure. Previous studies have shown people with mild hypertension have lower blood pressure in the summer than in the winter, and that the incidence of cardiovascular disease tends to increase further from the equator. This could have to do with lifestyle and seasonal stresses, but it is still an interesting correlation.
The study featured 24 volunteers who were exposed to 30 minutes of UVA radiation at the same intensity level of a sunny afternoon in Southern Europe. The exposure caused a significant drop in blood pressure in comparison to another test involving the same people who were exposed to heat and light, but no UVA exposure.
The idea is that sunlight increases the release of nitric oxide from the skin into the bloodstream, dilating the arteries and freeing up more space for blood to pass through. The heart then has to work less to pump blood, and there is less pressure required to produce adequate blood flow.
If you don’t live close to the equator or have a hard time getting out to enjoy the sun, you could try supplementing with L-arginine. L-arginine is an amino acid that acts as a nitric oxide precursor. However, there is insufficient evidence to suggest L-arginine supplementation will lower blood pressure, but in theory it seems to make sense.