by Dr Malcolm Kendrick
Returning to the central process of cardiovascular disease (CVD), for a moment. If you are going to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, you must do, at least, one of three things:
- Protect the endothelium (lining of blood vessels) from harm
- Reduce the risk of blood clots forming – especially over areas of endothelial damage
- Reduce the size and tenacity (difficulty of being broken down) of the blood clots that develop
- If you can do all three, you will reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack, or stroke, to virtually zero.
What protects the endothelium?
There are many things that that can do this, but the number one agent that protects the endothelium is nitric oxide (NO). Thus, anything that stimulates NO synthesis will be protective against CVD. Which brings us to sunshine and vitamin D.
- Sunlight on the skin directly stimulates NO synthesis, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve arterial elasticity, and a whole host of other beneficial things for your cardiovascular system, not least a reduction in blood clot formation.
- Sunlight on the skin also creates vitamin D, which has significant impact on NO synthesis in endothelial cells, alongside many other actions. It also prevents cancer, so you get a double benefit.
Therefore, my first direct piece of direct advice for those who want to prevent heart disease, is to sunbathe. In the winter when the sun is not shining take vitamin D supplementation. Alternatively, go on holiday to somewhere sunny. Or get a UVB sunbed, and use it.
My only note of warning here is to say, don’t burn, it is painful and you don’t need to.