Jan. 17, 2014 at 8:42 PM ET
Here’s why sunbathing feels so good: It may lower your blood pressure, British researchers reported Friday.
Just 20 minutes of ultraviolet A (UVA) sunlight lowered blood pressure by a small but significant amount in 24 volunteers, they report in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Further checks suggest the sun does this by increasing levels of nitric oxide, a chemical linked to blood flow.
The effects are so strong they may help explain why people who live in the darker north, like the Scots, have higher rates of death from heart disease, Richard Weller of the University of Edinburgh and Martin Feelisch of the University of Southampton say.
“We are concerned that well-meaning advice to reduce the comparatively low numbers of deaths from skin cancer may inadvertently increase the risk of death from far higher prevalent cardiovascular disease and stroke, and goes against epidemiological data showing that sunlight exposure reduces all cause and cardiovascular mortality,” they concluded.
Their volunteers got the equivalent of 30 minutes of natural sunlight at noon on a sunny day in Southern Europe. They protected their volunteers from the warming effects, just in case that was the cause. It lowered blood pressure by about five points, and the effects lasted half an hour.
In other words, a little sunshine really may warm your heart.