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Apr 8, 2011

Laughter & Music Lowers Blood Pressure

We’ve all heard the saying that “laughter is the best medicine.”  And we can all probably agree that listening to our favorite music feels good and probably benefits our health in some way.  Now there is more research to support both of these theories.   The results of a small preliminary study presented at a recent American Heart Association meeting showed that laughing at funny jokes as well as listening to appealing music may decrease blood pressure to the same extent as eliminating dietary salt or losing ten pounds.     

In this Japanese study (Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine), 90 men and women between the ages of 40 and 74 were randomly chosen to be given hour-long sessions of music (of their choice) or laughter every other week, or no therapy at all.  After 3 months, systolic blood pressure decreased on average by 5 or 6 points in the group receiving the music or laughter therapy.  In the control group, there was no change in average blood pressure.  Although the blood pressure change in the therapeutic group may seem relatively insignificant, such decreases have been associated with a 5-15% reduced risk of death due to heart disease or stroke according to Michael Miller, MD, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

It’s still not completely clear how laughter and enjoyable music can positively impact blood pressure.  A likely explanation is that these types of therapies promote relaxation, which in turn lowers cortisol, an important stress hormone involved in the regulation of blood pressure.  Nitric oxide is also a likely contributing factor.  In response to relaxing stimuli like laughing or music, released nitric oxide can help dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.  We all know it feels good to be happy-it seems our body appreciates humor as much as our mind!

Dr. Shana McQueen