Cheer up your heart

December 2, 2008

I was extolling the virtues of laughter in this article about laughter yoga, and now here’s another of my favourite stress busters which can have a wonderful effect on your heart health. No drugs and no side effects are involved you just need to listen to some joyful music and the function of your blood vessels will be vastly improved, and that’s good for your heart.

No I didn’t make it up just because I love listening to music, it’s based on research presented by the University of Maryland School of Medicine at the recent American Heart Association Scientific Sessions meeting in New Orleans. So, tune in your radio, or get out your favourite piece of music – the only criteria is that it must give you a great sense of joy – so whether it’s Bach, the Beatles, or Bonzo Dog they will all have the same health-giving benefits.

What happens when you listen to music is that the tissue in the inner lining of your blood vessels dilates and that increases blood flow. Known as the endothelium, the lining of blood vessels has a powerful effect on health, especially the development of cardiovascular disease, because it regulates blood flow and adjusts blood thickening and coagulation. Plus, at no extra cost, it releases substances in response to wounds, infections or irritation. So be kind to it and play it something wonderful! Don’t however put on the funeral march or anything that stresses you like heavy metal, as if then your blood vessels will narrow and restrict blood flow.

For the statistically minded, the research showed that blood vessels dilated an extra 26% for joyful music and music that stressed the listener narrowed blood vessels by 6%. I think it might be time to give up listening to Leonard Cohen – or at least ration my intake on health grounds. Oh, and I also know that signing has the same good effect, and as I have been lucky enough to be in a couple of passenger choirs on cruise ships recently I can highly recommend it as both joyful, and stimulating as you try to remember the words and work out if it’s you or your neighbour that is singing off-key!


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