Looks like laughter might be the best medicine after all--and music really can soothe a savage beast.
A new study out of Japan finds two of our most pleasant diversions--singing and laughing--can help tame the blood pressure beast, and not just by a point or two. Volunteers actually saw seven-point drops--more than enough to bring borderline hypertension patients back from the other side.
Here's how it worked: Researchers divided 79 adults between 40 and 74 years old into three groups.
One set of volunteers attended a one-hour music session every two weeks where they listened to tunes, sang, and stretched. They were also told to listen to music at home.
Fun? Sure--but check out the next group: They went to an hour-long "laugh yoga" session every other week, where they did breathing exercises, laughed, and watched Japanese rakugo comedies.
The third group got nada.
The researchers found that after each session, patients in the music group lowered BP by 6 mm Hg, while those in the laugh sessions fell by 7 mm Hg--and volunteers in both groups had lower levels of the stress marker cortisol.
What's more, the researcher say those benefits lasted for the entire three-month duration of the study.
Volunteers in the control group, on the other hand, saw no changes at all.
If there's one thing this study is missing, it's a group that did both the laughing and the music--because it would be interesting to see if the combined effect is even stronger.
But don't let that stop you from trying at home.
I doubt you have access to Japanese rakugo where you live, and most of us wouldn't understand it if we did--but you can rent a funny movie or record "Comedy Central Presents" and start your own laugh session any time.
And believe it or not, "laugh yoga" is already catching on--and you might even find a group that does it in your area. This directory has 83 teachers in 33 states--and I'm sure that's only the beginning.
Then, be sure to pop in some tunes--because everyone loves music... and don't be afraid to sing along, no matter who might be listening in.
You might not be the next "American Idol," but you can have fun and lower your BP levels at the same time.