Can Being Outside in Sunlight Improve Heart Health?

Sunlight is often considered the enemy of healthy skin, but research shows that it plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy heart. Sun exposure directly impacts our body's nitric oxide production, which is essential for cardiovascular health. Let's explore how being out in daylight can help maintain and improve heart health.

Key takeaways:

Sunlight, nitric oxide, and blood pressure- the correlation

Sunlight exposure has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide in our bodies, which is why it's crucial for maintaining good cardiovascular health. Nitric oxide is a molecule produced by the lining of blood vessels that helps to relax them, allowing for increased blood flow. This improved blood flow can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

In 2020, a study was performed on the association between being exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation and blood pressure. During this study, 342,000 dialysis patients had their blood pressure examined over three years. There were almost 46 million blood pressure readings that were taken. The numbers showed that there was a drop in their systolic blood pressure reading (the top number) when exposed to solar ultraviolet light.

Another study in Europe, performed in 2009, proposed the idea that the nitric oxide stored in the skin is mobilized by sunlight and delivered to the circulation system. In the study, they took healthy individuals and exposed them to ultraviolet lights for specific amounts of time. They then measured the nitric oxide levels released and their blood pressure.

The results showed that there was a correlation between nitric oxide being released from the skin with ultraviolet rays and blood pressure being reduced.

Anti-inflammatory benefits of sun and vitamin D

Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for the proper functioning of our immune system, and it has been linked to reducing inflammation throughout the body.

Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury or infection, but when it becomes chronic, it can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Vitamin D is thought to help regulate the immune system and prevent chronic inflammation by reducing the production of certain proteins that contribute to inflammation.

In one study done in 2019, more than 83,000 people were involved in 21 randomized clinical trials on the benefits of vitamin D supplements and cardiovascular disease risks. These clinical trials showed that supplemental vitamin D did not reduce the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Another study in 2018 on vitamin D supplementation showed the same thing. 25 thousand participants were given 2,000 IUs of vitamin D or a placebo and showed no significant impact on heart health.

The question remains, can natural vitamin D supplied by being in the sunlight truly help heart health? Unfortunately, currently there is no answer as there have not been enough studies on this particular question, but it looks promising.

Some studies have shown a seasonal effect between natural vitamin D and warm temperature that reduces blood pressure, but repeated studies have failed to prove this, particularly with supplemental vitamin D. However, it is known that having low vitamin D levels in the blood increases the risk of having heart attacks, heart failures, strokes, and death.

Healthy heart: reduce sunlight and stress

Spending time outside in the sun has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve our mood, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Stress is a significant contributor to heart disease, and finding ways to reduce stress can have a direct impact on our cardiovascular health.

Sunlight exposure has several potential benefits for heart health and overall well-being. Exposure to sunlight can help reduce stress levels, which in turn can lower the risk of heart disease. Sunlight exposure can also improve mood and promote better sleep, both of which are important for maintaining good heart health.

Exposure to natural sunlight can help regulate our circadian rhythms, the internal “clock” that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. When our circadian rhythms are disrupted, it can lead to sleep problems, which are also linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Spending time outdoors in nature can help reduce stress levels and improve overall mental health. Chronic stress has been shown to contribute to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, so anything we can do to reduce stress levels is beneficial for heart health.

Cardiovascular benefits: exercising in the sun

Exercise is essential for maintaining good cardiovascular health, and combining it with sunlight exposure can have even greater benefits. Exercising in the sun can increase our heart rate and improve our cardiovascular activity, reducing the risk of heart disease.

In general, exercising helps our cardiovascular health by reducing body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, just to name a few. Combining this with exercising in the sunlight to help promote vitamin D and nitric oxide can also greatly benefit heart health.

Thirty minutes of sunlight and exercise exposure have both been proven to help cardiovascular health. Be careful not to exert yourself in the sun and not get heat exhaustion or a heat stroke, though. Ensure you exercise safely and stay cool and hydrated while exercising outside.

How long is too long in the sun?

While sun exposure is essential for maintaining good cardiovascular health. It's important to protect our skin from harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing.

The amount of time we spend in the sun will depend on our skin type and the strength of the sun, so it's important to be mindful of our sun exposure and protect our skin accordingly. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests wearing sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher when outside and avoiding direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to prevent the risk of skin cancer.

Sunlight exposure has been shown to increase nitric oxide production, which can help maintain good cardiovascular health. Vitamin D produced by sunlight exposure also has potential benefits for heart health by reducing inflammation, although further research is needed. Spending time in the sun can also reduce stress levels, improve mood, and promote better sleep, which can all contribute to better cardiovascular health.

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