Trying to live a “heart healthy” life? Exercising regularly? Keeping your cholesterol in check? Having a glass of red wine with dinner?
How about your daily dose of music...!? Sound preposterous? Read below…
Study data presented at a recent American Heart Association scientific meeting suggests that music may confer benefits beyond the known short-term effects of lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Though tested on a small study population, pleasing music (defined and chosen by the individual participants) was shown to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. Conversely, anxiety-producing music produced opposite results, accentuating the overall effect. The magnitude of the effect was comparable to that produced by aerobic exercise or statins in similar studies. It remains to be seen whether there are long term cardio-protective and “heart healthy” benefits. Still, this apparent therapeutic effect can be added to the growing list of medical benefits that music seems to offer, both in health and in disease.
Music has been used since antiquity to enhance well-being, lessen anxiety, and reduce pain and suffering. It continues to be used in a variety of settings in our modern medical system. Music clearly exerts direct physiologic effects, most pointedly through the autonomic nervous system, but many of the observed effects are still poorly understood. With the increased interest in Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, also known as Integrative Medicine, the effects of music in a greater variety of settings are now being studied more vigorously than ever. (see NIH website below)
What sorts of benefit might this low cost intervention provide? A few examples:
Music has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety in a variety of preoperative and postoperative settings.
Anxiety and depression in Intensive Care Units is lessened by music in numerous studies.
Oncology studies in adults and children have repeated shown the beneficial effects on the mood of patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Music may reduce the anxiety and has been shown to lessen the pain medication needed for procedures such as bronchoscopy, colonoscopy, and colposcopy.
Premature infants who are exposed to lullabies and classical music have increased weight gain, fewer episodes of oxygen desaturation, and decreased distressed behaviors than those not exposed.
Playing music during or after surgery helps reduce pain and lowers dosages of morphine and other sedative and analgesic medicines.
Music appears to have therapeutic utility in the management of several neurologic and psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, depression, multiple sclerosis, and brain injury rehab.
Music can reduce the pain associated with labor as well as that associated with a variety of chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis, cancer, and bone marrow transplant.
Music therapy has been shown to significantly improve the quality of life for many dying patients. Terminally ill patients have reported improved pain control, improved general physical comfort, and increased relaxation associated with single-session music interventions.
So take note. Or better yet, listen to some notes… it’s good for you!
For more information about music and medicine and health, visit the websites below:
The American Music Therapy Association
The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine