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Sunbathing For Just 20 Minutes Could Lower Blood Pressure

Update Date: May 08, 2013 11:24 AM EDT

Outdoor tanning is a popular activity for teenagers and adults. Being able to sit at the beach, park, or any other outdoor areas and relax while getting a nice natural tan might seem like a win-win situation. Despite the warm feel of the sun's rays, tanning has been discouraged more and more often as health experts express their concerns over skin cancers and damage. However, according to a new study, tanning naturally via sunbathing might have some health benefits after all. The study found that soaking up sunrays for 20 minutes, not hours like most people like to do when they want to achieve a tan, might be able to help lower one's blood pressure.

The research team from Edinburgh University in the United Kingdom reported that 20 minutes of sunrays could be worth the small increase in the risk for skin cancer because these 20 minutes could lower blood pressure and decrease the risk for strokes and heart attacks. In the United Kingdom, around 2,750 people die from skin cancer a year. The number of deaths that result from blood circulatory diseases is 159,000 per year. The researchers believe that sunbathing can lower one's chances of dying from circulatory complications because the sunrays trigger the blood vessels to release the chemical, nitric oxide, which helps lower blood pressure. When blood pressure is lowered and kept at a healthy range, one's risk of strokes, heart attacks and blood clots would be decreased significantly as well.

The research team, headed by Dr. Richard Weller, recruited 24 volunteers for their experiment. The 24 participants were placed under tanning lamps for two sessions, each one lasting 20 minutes. During these sessions, the researchers monitored and recorded the blood pressure levels. The first session exposed the participants to ultraviolet (UV) rays and heat, whereas the second session only used heat. The researchers discovered that the first session's conditions did lower blood pressure, while the second one did not affect blood pressure at all.

These findings confirmed precious research that found a link between blood pressure and seasons. Researchers found that people's blood pressure levels tended to be lower in the summer and higher in the wintertime. However, other factors, such as foods could contribute to this link. The researchers stated that sunlight is not the cure to circulatory problems, but it could definitely help. The researchers also stated that the sample size is quite small and that 20 minutes of sunlight should not be interpreted as hours of sunlight, which can be very dangerous.

The study's findings will be presented at the International Investigative Dermatology conference this Friday in Edinburgh. 

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