1. Benefits of music help the heart

    Whistle while you workout

    Nothing helps raise a workout to the next level quite like having some of your favorite tunes playing loud -- and the benefits of music can do more than just help pass the time while you exercise.

    It can actually enhance your workout, improve your physical capacity and even boost your overall heart health, and that's especially true if you're battling heart problems.

    Exercise alone, for example, can increase your cardiac function and exercise capacity by 29 percent, according to one new study. But when you add some music to the mix, that boost jumps to 40 percent, according to the research of the benefits of music presented at the European Society of Cardiology's annual congress.

    The secret is in the endothelium, or the layer of cells that line your blood vessels.

    When you suffer from heart problems, that layer starts to shut down. But with a click of the "PLAY" button on your radio or iPod, it starts back up again and at least some of that lost function is restored.

    It's almost as if your endothelium wants to get up and dance.

    The study doesn't show why  the benefits of music seems to do the trick, but it's probably because the endothelium is responding to the same thing you feel when you listen to the songs you love.

    It's a wave of endorphins, rushing through the body. On the outside, it makes you feel good -- it can even make your skin tingle.

    And on the inside, it can stimulate healing, repair tissue, reduce inflammation and -- as the new study shows -- even restore lost function to your cardiovascular system.

    You don't have to be a heart patient to get all those benefits of music and more. All you need is a stereo and a set of ears.

    So get to it... get up, get some exercise and crank up the tunes.

    Your heart will sing along.

  2. The health benefits of music

    Looks like the savage beast isn't the only thing music can soothe: A good tune can also help ease pain.

    Of course, that's not too much of a surprise since many people already use music to soothe both physical and mental pain -- but the latest research shows how there's one group of folks in particular who stand to benefit the most.

    And if you're the type that finds yourself getting anxious at the very thought of pain -- the type who breaks out into a sweat even thinking about a routine dental cleaning, for example -- then get the headphones out and fire up some tunes, because music might be better than a painkiller for you.

    In the new study, researchers sent painful jolts of electricity through the fingertips of 143 volunteers and measured their levels of pain as they listened to music. The volunteers were also told to pay attention to the music by focusing on certain melodies and listening for specific tones.

    And it worked: Pain levels went down as the musical concentration went up for at least some of the patients.

    But it didn't quite work for everyone. In fact, people who didn't have much anxiety over pain didn't get much of a benefit -- and I'm guessing it's because these folks probably don't feel the same levels of pain either.

    Pain, after all, is as much mental as it is physical -- and that's why people who get anxious over it stand to benefit the most.

    And if that's you, the researchers behind the new study say be sure to pick music that will hold your interest. Because, let's face it, that's rarely going to be the sleepy office Muzak and "light FM" droning in the background of most medical clinics.

    So next time you have a medical or dental appointment, bring your own music player and a pair of headphones (as long as it's allowed in the room, of course). Tune in to your tunes... and tune out the pain.

  3. Fats beat sadness

    Looks like the old maxim "fat and happy" isn't too far off -- but it's not fat in your body that'll lift your mood. It's fat in your diet.
  4. Music and laughter can lower BP

    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.

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