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Health Team

Study: Laughter, music help lower blood pressure

Posted March 28, 2011 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2011 6:19 p.m. EDT

“Laughter is the best medicine” is a common saying, but new research has found that both laughter and music might be just what the doctor ordered.

Laughter yoga, a stress-reducing workshop, is practiced in 60 countries. The class combines traditional yoga breathing with prolonged laughter, and it's no joke. A new Japanese study found that laughter and music help lower blood pressure.

“You laugh (and) you release all that tension,” said Johanna Vandenberg, with Yogalaff.

Dr. Michael Miller, with the University of Maryland Medical Center, says chemicals released by the brain interact with chemicals in the heart to open up blood vessels.

One study group did laughter yoga with long belly laughs. A second group sang and listened to music. A third group didn't do either activity. After three months, the people in the first two groups saw their blood pressure drop significantly.

“(The study found) a 5 to 10 percent reduction in dying from heart disease and a 10 to 15 percent reduction in dying from stroke,” Miller said.

Laughter yoga is based on the scientific fact that the body can't differentiate between real and fake laughter, so it gets the same psychological and physiological benefits.

“Your body starts to relax. You start forgetting all your worries, and you stop obsessing over your thoughts,” said Yogalaff group leader Robert Marchesan.

Vandenberg said she is already seeing benefits.

“(I) haven't had a cold since I started,” she said.

A doctor from India started the first laughter club there in 1995. There are now more than 6,000 clubs worldwide.