Sunlight may mean a longer, healthier life
A few minutes in the sun can greatly improve health and may even help you live longer, concludes a study from the University of Edinburgh. Researchers found that when the skin is exposed to sunlight – specifically UV rays in the sunlight –, a compound is released into the body’s blood vessels that lowers blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and prolong life.
The study analyzed the blood pressure of 24 volunteers who sat beneath tanning lamps for two 20-minute sessions. In one of the sessions, the volunteers were exposed to UV rays and the heat of the lamps. In the next session, the UV rays were blocked and the participants only felt the heat from the lamps. They found that the participants’ blood pressure dropped significantly for one hour after they were exposed to UV rays. But, when the patients were exposed to only the heat, their blood pressure did not fall.
Scientists have known for a long time that moderate sun exposure has many health benefits, primarily that it helps the body produce Vitamin D. But this response to sunlight is a newly discovered benefit and is distinct from the body’s production of Vitamin D.
The lead research author, Dr. Richard Weller from the University of Edinburgh, said of the findings, “We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer.”