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Women's Heart News

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Issue date: Monday, June 03, 2013

In this issue you'll find stories about:

A Ray of Hope

Things just got a little brighter when it comes to preventing hypertension, heart disease and stroke. A recent study from The University of Edinburgh in the UK suggests a cardiovascular benefit to sun exposure beyond Vitamin D production. Researchers; aware that rates of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke rise in the winter, have long attributed this to geographic latitude but lacked the research to support this assumption, until now. Recent findings suggest that when skin is exposed to sun rays, a pressure releasing compound known as ‘nitric oxide' (NO) is released. The result was a decrease in blood pressure lasting about 50 minutes. Does this sound too good to be true? Maybe, maybe not!

Twenty-four volunteers were invited to sit under sun-lamps for two twenty minute sessions while their blood pressure was being monitored. During session #1, volunteers were exposed to ultra-violet (UV) rays and heat. During session #2 volunteers were exposed to heat only, the UV rays were blocked. During session #1 the volunteers experienced a significant drop in blood pressure compared to session #2. Scientists concluded that the increase in NO release was due to UV exposure. Although the small sample size makes it difficult to generalize, the results are too fascinating to ignore.

Concerned about sun exposure, premature aging of the skin and the added risk of developing skin cancer as a tradeoff for lowering blood pressure? Well, sunshine is not your only option to lowering blood pressure by increasing the release of NO. Consider a tried and true approach to wellness A.K.A. diet and exercise. The amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline found in nuts, fruits, lean meats, and dairy directly create nitric oxide inside the cell. Exercise (walk, run, bike, lift weights etc...) requires that more oxygen be supplied to muscle tissue. Oxygen is supplied by circulating blood. The heart pumps with more pressure. The lining in your arteries release NO. Vessels relax and widen, allowing more blood to pass through with less pressure, the result, a lower blood pressure reading.

A steady flow of NO release throughout the day is no easy task. Truth be told, as we age our NO system becomes less efficient. Scientists attribute this to free radical damage, inactivity, and poor diet. To make matters worse, sun exposure promotes free radical damage. Confused??? Sometimes research does that. To date there are numerous evidence based approaches to managing hypertension that do not involve risk associated with sun-exposure - diet, exercise, smoking cessation, weight loss, limiting alcohol and medication to name a few.

Bottom-line, this recent study may brighten up your treatment option but...the evidence remains a little overcast. Further research is needed to weigh the heart health benefits of sunlight with the risk of developing skin cancer. To learn more about evidence based approach to managing your risk for heart disease please call or visit The Karen Yontz Center. We look forward to being your ray of hope.


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