Finding the time to break away from the daily grind, a vacation at the beach is one of the best imaginable ways to lower your blood pressure. However, is it the relaxation alone that’s responsible? According to the results of a new study conducted in the United Kingdom, regularly exposing the skin to the sun’s rays may also play an important role in reducing hypertension.
The study, which was conducted in a laboratory environment, found that people experienced a reduction in blood pressure and dilation of their blood vessels after being subjected to 30 minutes of UVA radiation designed to mimic a Southern European summer sun. Although getting too much sun without proper protection can lead to a sunburn and even skin cancer in some cases, high blood pressure can result in fatal consequences including stroke and heart attack.
Skin and Hypertension: A Research Breakthrough?
According to experimental medicine professor Martin Feelisch of the University of Southampton, no previous study has ever found a link between the skin and high blood pressure. Other factors that contribute to hypertension, such as excess levels of sodium in the diet, lack of exercise and smoking, have been well known for many decades.
Although the researchers are unsure exactly why sunshine seems to reduce blood pressure, they theorize that it has something to do with nitric oxide as well as its chemical derivatives, such as nitrate and nitrite. The blood vessels contain an inner lining consisting of cells that release nitric oxide, resulting in dilation and a reduction in blood pressure.
Although nitric oxide exists in the blood in limited quantities, it can be found much more abundantly in the skin. The researchers behind the new study believe that UVA radiation somehow activates these molecules and moves them to the blood, resulting in a reduction in blood pressure. After running tests the researchers do not believe that the drop in blood pressure is due to the sun’s warmth or consumption of nitrates and nitrites in the subjects’ diets.
More Research Remains
Although UVA radiation doesn’t have an enormous effect on blood pressure, even small reductions can save lives and ultimately reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack.
At the same time, the researchers admitted that much more work remains. As of now, they don’t know whether a person’s gender, age or disease history could have some effect on their ability to experience a reduction in hypertension due to the sun’s rays. They’re also unsure as to whether additional exposure to UVA radiation would continue to reduce the subjects’ blood pressure.
The researchers hope that further studies will look deeper into this phenomenon to determine the extent to which sunlight can reduce high blood pressure.
The Bottom Line
A recent study from the U.K. strongly indicates that exposure to the sun’s rays reduces blood pressure.
The full text of the study can be found in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.