Dermatologist Richard Weller discusses his research into the correlation between sunlight and decreased levels of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is produced in the skin from exposure to ultraviolet-B rays. Studies suggest that individuals who have higher blood levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. However, vitamin D supplements, vitamin D that is not produced naturally in the body, does not decrease rates of heart disease nor is there great evidence for cancer prevention. Our skin also stores a chemical transmitter called nitric oxide, which can be produced from green leafy vegetables in our diets. When ultraviolet- A rays come into contact with our skin, these stores of nitric oxide are released into our blood circulation. When nitric oxide is released into our bodies our coronary arteries and blood vessels dilate, lowering blood pressure and increasing the blood flow to the heart. This process can only occur when ultraviolet-A rays come in direct contact with the skin. In areas that are closer to the poles, UVA and UVB contact is minimal and almost non-existent in the winter months. Rates of heart disease mortality are generally higher in these areas that experience less sunlight.
It is also important to be mindful of overexposure to sunlight. A good amount of exposure to sunlight can be beneficial to your health, but repeated overexposure to sunlight can be detrimental to your health. Overexposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to skin cancer, and premature aging.