Sunshine gives you more than a healthy glow! Research is showing that vitamin D can actually help to save your heart! A study this spring showed that supplementing low vitamin D levels for 3 months alleviated hypertension in middle-aged African Americans. If you've ever had hypertension, you know what the outcome can be if you don't change your diet and/or lifestyle to get it under control: organ damage, heart disease, and stroke. So, it should come as no surprise that another study has suggested that getting enough vitamin D can even be used to ward off a stroke. Of course, we're supposed to get most of our vitamin D from the sun, and supplement if necessary. So is it the warm, relaxing sun exposure that helps us unwind (reducing blood pressure) or is it the vitamin D we get from doing so? As it turn out, it's both. When sunlight hits your skin, it reacts with the cholesterol in your skin to produce vitamin D. This is why you shouldn't shower immediately after being in the sun; you'll literally wash away the vitamin D that hasn't finished reacting with the oils on your skin. But sunlight also has a secondary blood pressure lowering effect, discovered by Scottish researchers last month. Apart from producing vitamin D (which lowers blood pressure itself), sunlight on the skin helps the body produce more nitric oxide, which also helps reduce blood pressure. So, the next time your spouse irritates you or work is driving you nuts, go outside, catch a few rays, and you'll feel much better — and so will your heart. Better yet, this might be a good excuse to get that convertible you've always wanted!
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