By Marc Sorenson, EdD Sunlight Institute
High blood pressure (HBP, hypertension) is a plague in our society, with one in three adults in the U.S. having the condition. Although 61,762 people per year die from HBP per se, its influence on other diseases may be more dangerous that HBP itself; it is also implicated in increased risk of death from heart disease, heart failure, other arterial diseases, kidney disease, irregular heart rhythms, osteoporosis, cognitive dysfunction, painful intercourse and stroke. Although textbook theory holds that HBP is regulated by the brain, blood vessels, or kidney, recent evidence suggests that HBP could be regulated in the skin, and that sunlight exposure plays a role in in controlling the condition. The authors of the latest research on this subject (footnote 3) demonstrate that sunlight produces a dilation of the arteries (known as vasodilation) by stimulating the production of Nitric oxide (NO) in the skin. NO is a potent vasodilator, stimulated by the ultraviolet A (UVA) portion of sunlight, and has been known for several years to lower blood pressure. Dr. Oplander and his colleagues wrote the first paper on the UVA and blood pressure in 2009,  showing a dramatic reduction of blood pressure with UVA.
A study from China demonstrates that exposure to sunlight correlates to a lowered risk of HBP. In a randomly selected population of Chinese residents from Macau (where the rate of hypertension is very high), the following risk factors for hypertension were assessed: lack of sunlight exposure, low intake of fish, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. An average of more than one-half hour of sunlight exposure per day, compared to none, predicted a 40% reduced risk for hypertension. Other factors such as smoking and poor nutrition, are of course very dangerous in producing HBP.
Dr. Grant has estimated that by doubling the dose of sun exposure, 400,000 lives could be saved yearly in the USA, with most of the reduction in mortality due to lives saved by lesser incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease. HBP, of course is a major player in cardiovascular disease, and we know that regular sunlight exposure is associated with profoundly lower risk of about 18 major cancers. Do not neglect to get your regular, non-burning sun exposure. It could save your life!
 American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Statistical Fact Sheet/2013 update.
 Ann Pietrangelo. Healthline 2014 http://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/effect-on-body (accessed January 4, 2016).
 Johnson RS, Titze J, Weller R. Cutaneous control of blood pressure. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2016;Jan25(1):11-5.
 Opländer C, Volkmar CM, Paunel-Görgülü A, van Faassen EE, Heiss C, Kelm M, Halmer D, Mürtz M, Pallua N, Suschek CV.. Whole body UVA irradiation lowers systemic blood pressure by release of nitric oxide from intracutaneous photolabile nitric oxide derivates. Circ Res. 2009;105:1031–40.
 Ke L, Ho J, Feng J, Mpofu E, Dibley MJ, Feng X, Van F, Leong S, Lau W, Lueng P, Kowk C, Li Y, Mason RS, Brock KE. Modifiable risk factors including sunlight exposure and fish consumption are associated with risk of hypertension in a large representative population from Macau. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2013 Nov 1 [Epub ahead of print].
 Grant, W. In defense of the sun: An estimate of changes in mortality rates in the United States if mean serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were raised to 45 ng/mL by solar ultraviolet-B irradiance. Dermato-endocrinology 2009;4:207-214.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
While contemplating my youth, growing up on our farm and ranch on the Utah/Nevada border, I mused on the amount of sunlight exposure that the hard summer work required. I was in the fields much of the time and spent a lot of time moving irrigation water, bucking hay bales and building and repairing fences. When the work allowed it, I shed my shirt until the sun became uncomfortable and then donned my cowboy hat and a long-sleeved shirt to protect against getting too much of that wonderful UV light. Some work, such as throwing hay bales on wagons, did not allow a bare body, because alfalfa hay is very scratchy. Much of the time, however, I was able to soak up the sun, going shirtless whether driving a tractor or chasing down recalcitrant cattle and sheep on my horse. My hands were often in the earth as I planted gardens and barley and alfalfa fields. Occasionally, I overdid the sun exposure and paid the price with a sunburn, but that was an infrequent occurrence. My friends called me “the brown man” although I am a blue-eyed, light skinned Caucasian. My tan was very deep; hence the moniker.
Those halcyon days of my youth were summer days, and I was never ill in that season; all of that sunlight kept me well, and it also helped to keep my mood elevated. Melanoma was never a worry for me or for the other farm boys and girls who lived in that area, and I have heard of no one who grew up there who ever contracted the disease, although they had the same ethnicity as I. Of course, lack of melanoma was to be expected, because people who spend much of their life in the sun are far less likely to contract melanoma than those whose stay indoors. For example, Diane Godar and her colleagues have presented evidence that outdoor workers, while receiving 3-9 times the sunlight exposure as indoor workers, have had no increase in melanoma since before 1940, whereas melanoma incidence in indoor workers has increased steadily and exponentially.  
This cogitating on my youth was triggered by reading an article entitled A senior moment: Get ‘down and dirty’ — Gardening is good for you! It discussed all the benefits of gardening and related some research regarding its therapeutic use:
Exercise that strengthens both the upper-and lower-body muscles, and especially hand strength
Reduces heart rate
Lowers blood pressure
Exposes the body to sunlight (hooray) to reset the circadian rhythms and combat depression
Promotes better nutrition
Gives a better sense of time
Of course, some of these benefits of gardening are really benefits of sunlight, as mentioned in the article. However, there may be another factor at play; when we connect with the earth, it improves our health, including heart health and mood through a transfer of electrons from the earth to our bodies.
What have we lost as we have adopted our sedentary, indoor lifestyles? Among other things, we have lost our good nutrition, our sunlight exposure and our contact with the earth. It is no wonder that working in a garden has such beneficial effects on our health! It gives us back at least some of our basic human health needs. So if you don’t have a garden, find one and get out in the sunlight!
Having been reminded of some of those vital needs, I am anticipating with alacrity my upcoming week at my Nevada ranch, where I will rusticate with my wife Vicki and my friends, Drs. Bill Grant and Adiel Tel-Oren. We will be soaking up the sunshine, feeling the dark mountain soil, eating nutritious foods and exulting in the beauty of the aspens and pines. We will also be renewing friendships with the birds, the ducks, the deer, the Elk, the wild turkeys and other wildlife that have no worries about us, because we don’t kill and eat them.
Sunlight, peace and friendships—it doesn’t get any better than this!
 Godar D, Landry, R, Lucas, A. Increased UVA exposures and decreased cutaneous Vitamin D3 levels may be responsible for the increasing incidence of melanoma. Med Hypotheses 2009;72(4):434-43
 Godar D. UV doses worldwide. Photochem Photobiol 2005;81:736–49.
 Thieden E, Philipsen PA, Sandby-Møller J, Wulf HC. UV radiation exposure related to age, sex, occupation, and sun behavior based on time-stamped personal dosimeter readings. Arch Dermatol 2004;140:197–203.
 Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Brown R. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015 Mar 24;8:83-96.
 Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Delany RM. Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity-a major factor in cardiovascular disease. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb;19(2):102-10
 Chevalier G. The effect of grounding the human body on mood. Psychol Rep. 2015 Apr;116(2):534-43