High blood pressure: ‘Insufficient sunlight’ is a possible risk factor – study findings

High blood pressure: Doctor explains benefits of hibiscus tea

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The NHS suggests in most cases, it’s not clear exactly what causes high blood pressure. But there are things that can increase your risk such as eating too much salt or being overweight. It notes: “Making healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high.”

In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers studied 342, 457 patients at 2,178 US dialysis centres over three years.

Blood pressure readings were averaged by month, then matched with reports on outdoor temperature and ultraviolet radiation, which also were averaged into monthly readings.
Researchers adjusted for variables such as gender, age and body mass index.

It found that in haemodialysis patients incident solar UV radiation is associated with lower systolic blood pressure.

“This raises the possibility that insufficient sunlight is a new risk factor for hypertension, perhaps even in the general population,” states the study.

READ MORE: High blood pressure warning: Drug recalled as it may cause ‘adverse health consequences’

Other research carried out at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh shows that sunlight alters levels of the small messenger molecule, nitric oxide in the skin and blood, reducing blood pressure.

During the study, the skin of 24 healthy individuals was exposed to ultraviolet (UVA) light from tanning lamps for two sessions of 20 minutes each.

In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both the UVA rays and the heat of the lamps. In another, the UV rays were blocked so that only the heat of the lamps affected the skin.

Nonetheless, as the Mayo Clinic notes, ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer, and UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful.

Indeed, Cancer Research UK says: “In the UK almost none in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented by staying safe in the sun and avoiding sunbeds.”

The charity explains: “Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the DNA in our skin cells. DNA tells our cells how to function. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.”

Fortunately, research has shown that there are a number of possible ways to lower high blood pressure levels, or avoid them in the first place.

The NHS says: “Simple lifestyle changes can help reduce high blood pressure, although some people may need to take medicine as well.

“Your GP can advise you about changes you can make to your lifestyle and discuss whether they think you’d benefit from medicine.”

Blood pressure is defined as the force put on your blood vessels and organs as blood is pumped around your body by your heart.

Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure – higher number – is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure – lower number – is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

The NHS says: “Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.”

If you are over the age of 40, the health body says you should be getting it checked every five years.

High blood pressure often has no symptoms, and many people who have high blood pressure do not know it, according to the NHS.

As many as five million adults in the UK have undiagnosed high blood pressure, so will not know that they are at risk, according to the British Heart Foundation.

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