Listening to relaxation tapes or classical music by Mozart reduces your blood pressure if you listen at least three times a week. In a study of 41 seniors living in retirement communities, researchers found that regularly listening to relaxation tapes reduced average systolic (the top number) blood pressure readings by nine points, while those who regularly listened to Mozart saw a seven-point reduction in their blood pressure.
"This is a simple program that's very easy to do, and blood pressure did decrease," said the study's lead author, Jean Tang, PhD, an assistant professor at the College of Nursing at Seattle University in Washington. But, she added, "It won't replace medicine. It can only reduce blood pressure to a certain point-it's like making lifestyle changes."
Tang presented the findings at the American Heart Association's conference of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, in Atlanta.
Two groups of seniors were randomly assigned to listen to a 12-minute relaxation tape with the sound of ocean waves instructions for breathing and relaxation exercises or to a 12minute Mozart sonata. Each group was asked to participate three times a week for four months.
Researchers took blood pressure readings before and after the intervention. At the end of the study, researchers asked participants to continue listening to the relaxation tape or to Mozart three times a week, if possible. Follow-up blood pressure readings were taken at one month and three months after the end of the study.
The average blood pressure for the relaxation tape group fell from 141/73 before the beginning of the study to 132/70 four months later. For the Mozart group, the average blood pressure fell from 141/71 before the study to 134/69 after the study.
After the three-month post-study period, the researchers found that only about half of the seniors had continued listening to the relaxation tapes or to Mozart three times a week. Tang said the reduction in blood pressure only persisted for those who continued with the program.
"High blood pressure is clearly a very significant and common problem. Approximately one in four people have hypertension, and about two-thirds of people with hypertension aren't adequately controlled," said cardiologist Robert Ostfeld, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
"This is a small, but very interesting study on a very safe and doable intervention," he added, but noted, "It's not clear if the reduction is sustained over time."
Dr. Tang said using a relaxation tape with instruction is likely a good supplementary treatment for lowering blood pressure. Eating right and exercising are also important, said both Dr. Tang and Dr. Ostfeld. "Exercise is the fountain of youth," added Dr. Ostfeld.
Both experts cautioned that relaxation exercises or listening to classical music are additional ways to help lower blood pressure, but they could not replace blood pressure medication.
A Tea that Lowers BP
Reduce blood pressure (BP) with hibiscus, I commonly found in blended herbal teas, says Diane L. McKay, PhD.
Recent finding: After drinking eight ounces of hibiscus tea three times a day for six weeks, participants' systolic (top number) blood pressure dropped by an average of seven points—about as much as with standard hypertension drugs. People with higher blood pressure had an even larger drop. Pure (unblended) hibiscus tea can be found on the Internet.