Even though it’s wintertime, our bodies crave sunlight, and it’s not just because of the cold weather and deep-seeded desire to spend life on the beach. As it turns out, sunlight offers more than just temporary warmth. Especially for cardiovascular health, sunlight is urgent to preventing heart attacks.
Of course, Vitamin D is urgent to preventing bone damage in all its iterations, including osteoporosis and rickets. So you may be thinking you’ll just take a vitamin D supplement here and there, or maybe even revert to the practice of taking cod liver oil in order to get those levels up. However, vitamin D alone doesn’t help in the prevention of heart disease at all.
Recent research suggests a whole new slew of benefits that come from UVA rays — the release of nitrous oxides, or NO. Scottish dermatologists Richard Weller found curious the differing rates of heart disease between the north and the south of the UK, especially since differences in social class, smoking, and activity had already been accounted for in the deep disparity.
Weller ran a series of studies in Pittsburgh on the way UV light interacts with the skin, particularly the pent-up NO in the skin that needs to be released into the bloodstream in order to benefit the body. Whereas UVB rays boost the creation of vitamin D, UVA rays offer no vitamin D stimulation, but allow more NO to be released. When only UVA rays were shown on study groups, their NO levels went up, and down went their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lastly, as silly as it may sound, sunshine improves your mood, which keeps your heart healthy. A dearth of sunshine can cause your body to produce less serotonin, which is known to cause happiness. A study in Harvard Health Publications showed that cardiovascular patients who are depressed when admitted to the hospital for a heart problem are more likely to die or to suffer worse cardiovascular problems in the future.
So what’s one to do if your climate is particularly cloudy and dreary in the winter? People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) use UV lamps to help improve their moods when natural sunlight isn’t available to do the trick. Available on most online retail stores, UV lamps can help fight the depression that comes from gray days and early nights, but it can also help your body produce vitamin D and activate enough NO to keep your system ship shape.
Natural sunlight is best, as you could imagine, but when the season doesn’t afford you such a luxury, a lamp will do just fine to ensure your body stays healthy during winter.