January 7, 2009

Movies can lower your blood pressure — but only this kind

If you have high blood pressure, you might want to go to the movies. Not just any movie, mind you. There's a certain type that can lower your blood pressure.

Cardiologist Michael Miller of the University of Maryland theorized that laughter might promote healthier circulation. By reducing stress, it might relax the vascular constriction produced by mental stress.

So he took 20 volunteers and had them watch a rather serious movie. He showed them the opening graphic war scene from "Saving Private Ryan." Then he measured their blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and how their blood vessels responded to the stress.

Then he had them watch a comedy. He showed them the 1996 Farrelly brothers' comedy "Kingpin." Then he measured their physiological responses and compared them to the first movie. He took a total of 160 blood vessel measurements before and after the sessions.

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Dr. Miller found that 9 of the 20 participants had reliable vessel relaxation following the comedy. And all 9 had increased blood flow. The reactions were probably prompted by the release of nitric oxide, which is the target of nitrate drugs and erectile dysfunction drugs. Nitric oxide relaxes vessels much like endorphins do when you exercise.

Miller concluded: "A good belly laugh a day would be a big step toward good heart health." I agree. And who knows, it might even be a lot less expensive and safer way to get your nitric oxide "arousal" than Viagra.

Yours for better health and medical freedom,

Ref: American College of Cardiology meeting Orlando March 2005.

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