Summer Countdown: 9 Health Benefits of Sunshine

Three young couples on the beach.
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Usually, at this time of year, we like to warn people about the dangers of too much sunshine or too little protection from sunshine. Not today, with the state reopening after so many weeks of self-quarantine during COVID-19.

In so many ways, glorious sunshine is good for your health.

Here are a few:

Blood Pressure

Sunlight reduces your blood pressure by changing the levels of nitric oxide, a small messenger molecule, in the skin and blood, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. The study, using research from the universities of Southampton and Edinburgh, went further: Lower blood pressure helps you live longer because it reduces the risk of deadly heart attacks and strokes.

Cancer

Studies have linked exposure to sunshine to lowered risk of pancreatic cancer and breast cancer. Pancreatic cancer rates were highest in countries with the least amount of sunlight. And women who said they spent at least an hour outside each day for 10 years were less likely to have breast cancer than those who said they spent less time in the sun.

Heart Disease

A Danish study, in a roundabout way, traced sun exposure to reduced rates of cardiovascular disease by reviewing more than 4 million medical records. The findings: People with skin cancer were less likely to have had a heart attack or died from any other cause during the study.

Multiple Sclerosis

High levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a lower risk of developing MS. (Vitamin D is available in a few foods, such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna, cheese and egg yolks, but many doctors also recommend it in diet-supplement form.)

Brain Function

Sunshine stimulates the body’s production of Vitamin D, a vital nutrient that protects your bones and fights disease. It can also stimulate nerve cell growth in the part of the brain responsible for the shaping and storing of memories.

Alzheimer’s Disease

If you’re Vitamin D deficient, you’re much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia than people with sufficient Vitamin D in their body, according to a 2014 study at the University of Exeter Medical School. Another study found that Alzheimer’s patients exposed to bright light exhibited fewer signs of depression, agitation and nighttime wakefulness than those exposed to low levels of light.

Sleep

Sunlight blocks the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that puts us to sleep, until the sun  sets. This helps establish the body’s normal circadian rhythm. Your body gets the message that, without sunlight, it’s time to call it a day.

Skin

Yes, the sun can make you skin tan (or lobster red) or cause skin cancer, but it can also help heal acne, eczema, psoriasis and other fungal infections.

Depression

Diminished sunshine in the winter months can cause a depressive condition called seasonal affective disorder that’s often treated with regular exposure to bright artificial light. Likewise, some sunshine in the summer months can also help if you’re mildly depressed.

For more information or to make an appointment at the Hartford HealthCare Melanoma and Skin Care Center, call 1.855.255.6181.

Need to see your doctor? New Patient? For more information about Hartford HealthCare virtual health visits, click here.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor. Find out more about COVID-19 antibody tests here.

Sign up for our “Coping with COVID” podcast series here.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

 


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