Summer of love: How the sun is affecting your blood pressure

Think the summer sun is affecting your blood pressure? You’re right.

Sunny day
The sun is effecting your blood pressure – for the better!

I think you’ll agree that this has been the best summer in a long time. Farmers may disagree (they want a little more rain you see), but I bet you don’t have enough fingers to count the number of BBQ’s you’ve has this summer (7 days in a row is my current record).

But what’s the effect on our body from this prolonged period of glorious weather?

Most would assume that blood pressure rises, also known as hypertension, with the heat. But, it would appear the opposite happens, and blood pressure actually lowers, known as hypotension.

Research from the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh revealed sunlight alters the level of nitric oxide (NO), a small messenger molecule, in the skin and blood; reducing blood pressure.

Martin Feelisch, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Integrative Biology at the University of Southampton reported: “NO along with its breakdown products, known to be abundant in skin, is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of NO are transferred from the skin to the circulation, lowering blood vessel tone; as blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

The study suggests that UVA exposure:

  • Dilates blood vessels
  • Significantly lowers blood pressure
  • Alters NO metabolite levels in circulation.

Essentially, good news for your heart.

Blood pressure
Direct sun light lowers your blood pressure – great news for your heart.

UV or not UV?

It seems this is very much a case of balance. You’re well aware of the dangers from skin cancer from excessive exposure to UVA – I’m not for a second suggesting ditching the Piz Buin – but by completely avoiding sunlight or permanently wearing high factor sun block could play a role in raising your blood pressure.

Professor Feelisch adds: “These results are significant to the ongoing debate about potential health benefits of sunlight and the role of Vitamin D in this process. It may be an opportune time to reassess the risks and benefits of sunlight for human health and to take a fresh look at current public health advice. Avoiding excess sunlight exposure is critical to prevent skin cancer, but not being exposed to it at all, out of fear or as a result of a certain lifestyle, could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps with the exception of bone health, the effects of oral vitamin D supplementation have been disappointing.

Let’s sun-a-rise

Awful puns aside, we do have some practical tips for health benefits.

  • Aim to get 10-20 minutes of direct sunlight a day
  • Ensure you use sun cream, but avoid sunblock if you can (seek medical advice)
  • In winter, aim to do the same with a 10 min brisk walk to lower blood pressure

Obviously, the above need to be used in line with a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition and exercise.

If nutrition is a concern, we have a nutritional expert hosting a free webinar which you’ll definitely learn something from – click here to sign up.


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