The Best Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
Whoever said that laughter is the best medicine was on to something and it turns out that lowering your blood pressure can also be achieved through music.
If you like to have a good laugh, or jam to some of your favorite tunes on your I-Pod, you may actually be lowering your blood pressure. In fact, music and laughter have actually been shown to lower your blood pressure just as much as losing 10 pounds, or cutting salt completely from your diet.
At a recent research meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, experts from the American Heart Association revealed preliminary results of a study stating that laughter and music may be some of the best ways to lower blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure, or hypertension, affects an estimated 74.5 million people in this country.
“Blood pressure is actually the measurement of the force when blood is being pushed outward through your arterial walls,” says Christy Zagarella, one of the lead dietitians for BistroMD. “Blood pressure is a result of two forces—the first force is the blood being pumped out of the heart and into the arteries. The second force is created as the heart rests between heart beats.”
Consistently having high blood pressure can put a strain on the major arteries and vessels in your heart. This is why monitoring your blood pressure regularly as an adult is very important.
For years, experts in the medical field have been researching the best ways to lower blood pressure, but what about the results of this recent study? Can laughter and happiness, combined with an enjoyment for music really lower your blood pressure readings? Our expert dietitian, Christy, weighs in on this recent revelation.
How Did Researchers Come to This Conclusion?
In this recent study by The American Heart Association, Japanese researchers found that participants who took part in bi-monthly group sessions built around music and laughter saw lower blood pressure readings.
“Honestly, the results of this study do not surprise me,” says Christy. “Laughter and feelings of happiness have been shown to improve overall health for years. Some studies even show that these feelings can lead to a longer, more fulfilling life.”
In regards to blood pressure, the participants in this study actually lowered their systolic reading (the top number), by an average of five to six points over the course of three months. To compare, the numbers for participants in this study who didn’t participate in these group sessions didn’t really budge.
In each musical session, participants were able to listen, sing, and exercise to their choice of music. To help lower their blood pressure even more, the participants were also encouraged to listen to music at home.
Each participant also took part in a laughter session, in which every person was treated to humorous storytelling, and stand-up comedy sessions. They even practiced laughter yoga. Laughter yoga combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Praynayama).
“After three months of these sessions, participant's average systolic blood pressure reading dropped by 6 mmHg and 5 mmHg (millimeters of mercury),” says Christy. “This drop in their systolic readings is actually very close to the average drop someone would experience if they lose ten pounds or cut salt completely from their diet.”
Music and Laughter Can’t Do It Alone
Even though music and laughter may seem like one of the best ways to lower blood pressure, how it works exactly is still unclear.
This is something researchers are still trying to figure out.
“Based on what I know about this study, combined with my medical background as a dietitian, I believe that music and laughter may reduce levels of cortisol in our bodies,” says Christy. “Cortisol is a stress hormone, and can contribute to high blood pressure.”
Some of the same researchers on this panel were actually part of another study conducted by The American Heart Association a few years back. These researchers concluded that laughter and upbeat music improved function of the inner linings of the blood vessels. This caused them to expand by 30%, which decreased blood pressure.
Music and laughter may seem like one of the best ways to lower blood pressure, but nothing beats the impact of living a healthier lifestyle.
“As a dietitian, I have seen people dramatically lower their blood pressure just by eating better foods and exercising more,” says Christy. “When it comes to lowering your blood pressure, eating a low sodium diet, balanced with the appropriate portions of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats can reduce your readings, and get you on the path to living a better life.”
Also, forget the myths that exercise can be dangerous if you have high blood pressure.
“If you have high blood pressure, exercise is vital,” says Christy. “Exercise is actually one of the best natural ways to lower your readings, without strictly relying on prescription medication. Just by briskly walking for 20 minutes each day can make your blood vessels more flexible, causing less pressure when blood pushes through."