Get out the beach towel this summer… sunbathing may help reduce the risk of a heart attack or a stroke, a study has shown.
Exposure to sunlight lowers blood pressure which in turns cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease, say scientists.
While too much time in the sun has been linked to skin cancer, the authors of the study say too little is a bad thing too. Sunshine alters levels of nitric oxide in the skin and blood, reducing blood pressure.
‘When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of nitric oxide are transferred from the skin to the circulation.
‘As blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke,’ said Martin Feelisch, professor of experimental medicine and integrative biology at Southampton university.
Cardiovascular disease, often associated with high blood pressure, accounts for 30 per cent of deaths globally each year. Higher levels are observed in winter and in countries further from the equator, where ultraviolet radiation from the sun is lower.
During the study, which was carried out at the universities of Southampton and Edinburgh, the skin of 24 healthy individuals was exposed to ultraviolet light from tanning lamps for two sessions of 20 minutes each.
The results, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, suggest that UVA exposure dilates blood vessels, significantly lowers blood pressure and alters nitric oxide levels in the circulation, without changing vitamin D levels.