High blood pressure: The simple activity that could lower your reading – Dr Michael Mosley

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Doctor Michael Mosley explained the health benefits of a simple activity, that many already do daily, on his podcast called Just One Thing. Here’s what it is, how it can benefit your blood pressure reading and the science behind it.

“I’m in the shower and I’m doing something that could have a big impact on my health and well-being,” doctor Mosley kicked off the BBC Radio 4 podcast.

The simple activity easy to incorporate into your daily routine is singing.

The Just One Thing host said: “I’m looking to research which suggests that singing is a great way to boost mood, reduce anxiety and even enhance sporting performance.

“Singing in a choir particularly has been shown to boost your immune system, reduce inflammation and relieve chronic pain.”

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Apart from all of these health benefits linked to the simple activity, it can also help lower your blood pressure.

This episode’s guest expert, doctor Daisy Fancourt, who is Associate Professor of Psychology and Epidemiology at University College London, explained that the many health benefits of singing researchers are seeing include a decrease in blood pressure.

Doctor Mosley spoke about another music-related activity that can help. “A study in 2009 found that listening to music can affect our blood pressure, heart rate and the rate at which we breathe,” he said.

A different study, looking at patients undergoing chemotherapy, found that listening to live music reduced their diastolic blood pressure.

Diastolic blood pressure is the resistance to the blood flow in your blood vessels, while systolic pressure describes the force at which your heart is pumping blood.

Research suggests that solely listening to music can be great for your health. “But if you want to get the maximum benefit then you need to sing along,” said the podcast host.

Doctor Mosley added: “Research from the British Academy of Sound Therapy shows that singing along to what they call positive music, and that means any music you personally like, for more than five minutes a day can really improve your mood.”

The science behind feeling good because of singing consists of music tapping directly into our reward network, where it activates and lights up structures in the brain, causing feel-good hormones like dopamine to be released.

And when we listen to music our body tunes into and mirrors the music’s tempo, the doctor explained.

How long should I sing for?

The guest doctor, Daisy Fancourt, said they saw improvements in mood regulation, feelings of stress and reductions in levels of inflammation just over single sessions of singing.

She said: “We measured this by looking at chemical messengers called cytokines which regulate our inflammatory responses.

“This is really important because we know that inflammation is linked in with our mental health.”

She explained that singing is “a bit like a cognitive workout” and you can see the results of this workout even after five minutes.

How to start?

Doctor Fancourt advised: “I think the five-minute rule is a great one to start with particularly if you associate it with another behaviour that you always do.

“Like having a shower or making breakfast because that way it’s easy to do without forgetting about it.”

The Just One Thing host added that it doesn’t matter how you sing and you definitely don’t have to be a professional to get the health benefits.

Doctor Mosley said: “So that’s it, just one thing you can incorporate into your daily routine, which really could benefit your body and life.”

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