Listening your way to health |

Listening your way to health

Today’s offer: A cheap and effective prescription with no side effects. You don’t have to ask your doc if it is right for you. It needs no drug store, so there’s no waiting in “the line eternal” to pick up the prescription that, it turns out, can’t be found. Or wasn’t filled yet. Or was never called in.

You know this drill, you who stand and wait for the little brown bottle and the big horse pills you end up not taking because the ads on TV have scared the motivation out of you. No, this Rx is already in your house and car. It’s music.

Mothers and dentists have known for years that music relaxes people. Moms sing lullabies and dentists, ahead of docs in this area, learned decades ago that music relaxes patients who may be uptight because someone else’s hand is their mouth … with a drill.

Research supports their common sense. One study at the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that music opened up the arteries a relaxing 25 percent – if people liked what they listened to. But, if the music was annoying, that same study showed it narrowed the arteries by 6 percent. (Me, I think rap narrows mine so my blood just stops in its tracks.)

Other studies show that distracting patients with nature sounds reduces pain during anxiety-provoking medical procedures. But we don’t’ need studies to believe there has to be a reason CD’s of birdsong and babbling brooks are popular soothers of the body and spirit. Heck, we evolved listening to the sounds of nature. Birds were early man’s music. (Radio Avian: The Cave Person’s Choice.) Nor do we need studies to explain the existence of one radio station in the UK that plays nothing but birdsong.

That station’s website,, suggests you listen on the computer “whilst working”. (Hope your boss likes larks.) You can also get this relaxing station on your iPhone through the wonderful app, WunderRadio, which connects you to radio stations all over the world. (If someone told me ten years ago that I could listen to a jazz station in Switzerland with just a few finger taps on a palm-sized machine, I would have suggested anti-psychotic medication.)

Me, I’m just finishing up three days of first-rate health therapy listening to jazz, swing and big band music at the Jazz Bash by the Bay, a festival in Monterey CA put on by Dixieland Monterey ( Looking around at hundreds of happy faces over these last days, the word I think of is “joy”.

The music seems to elevate the spirits of all those who come to hear. The therapy must be potent as this festival has been going on for 30 years. (And no, it’s not the more famous Monterey Jazz Festival. Jazz Bash is a whole ‘nother music fest.)

Now I try to be cool and behave myself in public, but seeing some pretty ancient folks get up and dance, inspired by the beat of great American jazz, well, that does bring me to tears. Good tears.

Hey, that’s just more therapy.

If you have Cablevision in the Grass Valley area, you have ready access to the continuous music of your choice – the kind that will relax your arteries. Older folks might enjoy the swing at channel 738. Music from stage and screen is on channel 726. I’m not telling you where rap is, but it’s there. So is everything else, from classic to country. Just browse the 700 series of channels.

But, however you get your music – radio, TV, computer, sound system or music player – the prescription is this: Put on your tunes and mellow out.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist, author and columnist. Her book, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley. Visit Mel at

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