Cardiovascular diseases (disorders of the heart and blood vessels) cause the highest number of deaths worldwide, representing 32 per cent of all global deaths. Most CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and stroke. How can people reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease? Making healthy lifestyle changes like following a healthy diet, which includes eating more fruit and vegetables, reducing salt intake, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. What many of you may not be aware of is that getting adequate exposure to sunlight is also important to keep your heart healthy.
Yes, your heart needs sunshine too!
"Sunshine is cardio protective in numerous ways," says Dr. Puneet Varma, Consultant Cardiologist, Narayana Health, Bangalore.
Dr. Varma explains how the sun benefits our heart:
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. During exposure to sunlight, 7-dehydrocholesterol present in the skin absorbs UVB radiation and is converted to pre- vitamin D3 which, in turn, isomerises into vitamin D3. This vitamin D3 is far superior to any kind of supplemental vitamin D.
Many researchers have proven that vitamin D deficiency causes an inflammatory state and can accelerate the process of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. Sun exposure of 15 to 20 minutes per day is sufficient to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D.
Skin contains significant source of nitrogen oxide which when exposed to sunlight gets converted to nitric oxide by UV radiation. This nitric oxide dissipates into systematic circulation and causes arterial vasodilation which reduces blood pressure to a significant extent and enhances cardiovascular circulation.
"Thus, adequate sun exposure definitely reduces overall cardiovascular mortality and morbidity to a significant extent," he adds.
Caution: Too much sun exposure can burn the skin and may lead to skin cancer. Sitting 10-15 minutes in the early morning sun may be a good idea to get your required vitamin D safely.