There are many reasons why someone can develop high blood pressure. Stress, poor diet, too much sodium and being overweight can all be contributing factors, but the list goes way beyond just those few. With millions of people walking around with hypertension, the problem remains a big one that still needs to be addressed. One side of the coin is to reduce behaviors or stressors that cause high blood pressure. The other is to add more ways to reduce it, and British researchers may have found another tool to help combat the growing population of high blood pressure sufferers.
The good news? It’s free, it’s natural and you can find it right where you live!
Now before you start digging up your yard thinking it may be an herb, root or some trace mineral that may be offering this benefit, just merely step outside and you’ll already be exposed to the purveyor of this health benefit. That’s right, its good old sunlight that has been found to offer this heart-protective benefit. More specifically, it is the sun’s effect on nitric oxide (NO) that is in our skin that offers this effect. Basically, nitric oxide increases the elasticity of the artery walls and helps to normalize high blood pressure.
Researchers had noticed that blood pressure levels are commonly higher during winter months when exposure to sunlight is the lowest. They set out to see if there was a relationship between these two variables. Prior research showed that human skin and the dermal vasculature contain significant stores of NO—much more than can be found circulating in the blood—and that these stores could be mobilized by UVA (long-wave UV) irradiation. Nitric oxide is known to reduce blood pressure by evoking vasodilation either directly by causing relaxation of vascular smooth muscle or indirectly by acting in the brainstem to ultimately decrease the release of norepinephrine.
What they found is that nitric oxide stored in the top layers of the skin reacts to sunlight and causes blood vessels to widen as the oxide moves into the bloodstream. That, in turn, lowers blood pressure.
Given that this demonstrated a modest decrease in blood pressure, it doesn’t mean that you can just stop your meds and make sunbathing your new anti-hypertension strategy. You should, however, use it as another part of your overall lifestyle management that will help keep your blood pressure under control and decrease your risk for added stress to your heart and the unwanted resulting cardiovascular disease. So, make the most it and and get outside, add some exercise or activity, and reap the rewards that a little sun and fun will offer!