Try these two (non-drug) strategies to lower blood pressure
Have you heard the one about the seven-year-old girl who told her mom that a classmate asked her to play doctor?
“Oh, dear,” the mother said nervously. “What happened, honey?”
“Nothing, he made me wait 45 minutes and then double-billed the insurance company.”
The joke’s lousy, I’ll admit. But it still made me laugh. And that’s a good thing. According to a new study, laughing regularly as well as listening to music could modestly lower your blood pressure. And this may make all the difference in whether or not you need BP medication.
For the study, researchers recruited 90 men and women with high blood pressure. The randomly divided the volunteers into two groups. One group went to music classes or “laughter sessions” twice a month. The other group didn’t go to anything.
(Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What’s a “laughter session”? The report that I read likened it to visiting a comedy club.) In the music sessions, volunteers enjoyed their favorite music and stretched to jazz. (They were also encouraged to listen to music at home.)
The researchers checked back in on their volunteers three months later. They found that volunteers who went to music or laughter classes lowered their systolic BP by five to six points on average.
This may sound like a modest improvement. But if you ask me, it’s pretty darn good. One expert said this is the equivalent of losing 10 pounds or cutting salt from your diet or even taking BP meds.
And here’s what’s even more interesting…
Researchers took the volunteers’ BP before and after each therapy session. They found dips of six to seven points before and after each session. The dips were temporary, but consistent.
Why would their BP go down before going to class?
The lead researcher for the study said that music and laughter might help to lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol, as you’ll recall, is a stress hormone that may influence blood pressure. So, in this case, it appears that just anticipating that you will have a good time helps to lower your cortisol and push your BP down. Some experts believe listening to music or laughing also helps to relax and dilate blood vessels. This, in turn, helps to lower BP.
So if you ask me…
Rent a funny movie. Go to a concert. Making laughter and music a part of your life will help keep that BP down!