Soaking up the sun’s rays positively affects mental and physical health. It’s best to be smart about the sun, though, as too much can cause burns and cancer.
The sun makes Vitamin D and helps your body absorb calcium to prevent bone-weakening conditions like rickets and osteoporosis. Vitamin D also promotes healthy blood pressure.
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Vitamin D, or calciferol, is fat-soluble and found in some foods. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D intake is essential for bone health but has many other benefits. It reduces inflammation and regulates genes involved in inflammatory pathways and cell growth. It may help prevent cancer and improve the effectiveness of some antidepressants.
Your body’s amount of vitamin D depends on the season, sun exposure, and latitude. You can also get vitamin D by taking dietary supplements. One of the best ways to know if you have adequate levels is to ask for a blood test that measures 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D. Serum levels of this vitamin are reported in nanomoles per liter or micrograms per milliliter.
Low vitamin D levels are associated with high rates of hospital admissions and the use of epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, for allergic reactions. A 2019 study also suggests that women with low vitamin D levels are likelier to develop preeclampsia and give birth prematurely .
Vitamin D toxicity is rare, but it can occur. Very high levels of the vitamin in the blood, above 375 nmol/L (150 ng/mL), cause nausea and vomiting, confusion, pain, loss of appetite, excessive urination and thirst, drowsiness, and heart rhythm abnormalities. This occurs most often from overuse of dietary supplements that contain vitamin D.
Sunshine is known to boost moods, but it’s not just in your head—there is a science behind this. Vitamin D, a hormone the skin produces in response to sun exposure, is a powerful mood enhancer. It increases serotonin levels, a chemical that helps lift your mood and makes you feel calm and focused. It also promotes the production of melatonin, which regulates your body’s circadian rhythm, allowing you to fall asleep and wake up each morning and night.
Getting enough sunshine is essential for mental health, especially during the fall and winter when there is less daylight. It may help prevent seasonal affective disorder, which causes depression that varies depending on the season. It can be challenging to diagnose, but many people who get adequate amounts of sunlight may find their symptoms improve. If you suffer from SAD, try to expose yourself to bright light throughout the day and use a light box during the dark winter months.
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Improves Bone Health
Vitamin D, which the sun’s rays help your body make, is crucial for bone health. It aids the absorption of calcium, which keeps bones strong and healthy. The nutrient helps reduce your risk of brittle and fractured bones and other chronic illnesses. A severe deficiency in the nutrient is linked to diseases like rickets, osteomalacia, and weak bones.
Low vitamin D levels are linked to more than 53 disease states, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease. The nutrient is also critical for your immune system, helping your body fight infections.
While too much time in the sun can lead to skin damage and some forms of cancer, a moderate amount of sunshine does several positive things for your health. It boosts mood, lowers blood pressure, and slashes heart disease risk by helping the body absorb oxygen better. The UV rays in sunlight also help prevent osteoporosis and reduce the chances of falls by strengthening bones.
A recent study found that vitamin D supplements did not significantly reduce the rate of broken bones in people over 50. The researchers advise doctors and health professionals to stop recommending the pills to patients. Instead, consuming foods rich in vitamins, such as fortified milk and oily fish, can bring your body up to its recommended dose of 600 to 800 international units daily.
Lowers Blood Pressure
While we often hear about the dangers of too much sun, the right amount can do good things. For example, vitamin D, produced by the body in response to sun exposure, has been linked with lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause serious health problems, including stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. Regularly measuring and adjusting your blood pressure can help you avoid these consequences.
In a study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers found that subjects with higher vitamin D levels had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those with lower levels. In addition to getting vitamin D from the sun, you can also find it in foods such as egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon, soy milk, and cod liver oil.
Sunshine Health is among the most significant healthcare plans in Florida and offers a comprehensive system of care centered around each individual’s unique needs. It operates Florida’s Medicaid and Marketplace (Ambetter) health insurance plans and Children’s Medical Services Health Plan and provides long-term care services. The company’s Ambetter marketplace health insurance plans offer a balance between monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Sunshine Health is owned by Centene Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that offers government-sponsored managed care and private healthcare insurance for individuals. Visit their website to learn more about their services and how they can help you save money on your marketplace health insurance.
Sunlight provides various vital benefits, but overexposure can cause skin cancer. The sun emits ultraviolet radiation (UVR), damaging DNA and leading to skin cancer. In addition to its role in vitamin D production, sunlight stimulates the release of a neuropeptide, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), from sensory nerve fibers in the skin. CGRP suppresses immune functions and inhibits mast cell activation. This may explain why sunlight is helpful in the treatment of inflammatory skin disorders such as psoriasis.
Researchers have found that people in sunnier parts of the world have lower rates and deaths from cancer than do people living farther north. This led them to investigate whether the secret was vitamin D, which they discovered can prevent and treat many diseases.
The incidence of skin cancer has begun to plateau in Australia thanks to its “Slip, Slop, Slap” sunscreen campaign and in other areas due to adherence to the advice to wear protective clothing and hats. The sun’s UVR also stimulates a protein that limits oxidative DNA damage and increases gene repair, further reducing cancer risk.
Sunshine Health is among Florida’s most significant healthcare plans, offering members coordinated care and a support network. We provide quality healthcare solutions to more than 1 million Floridians through Medicaid, the Marketplace, and Medicare Advantage Health Plan (Ambetter). We’re proud to be part of the Centene Corporation family of companies.