The brain plays a very important role in cardiovascular health. And whatever soothes the brain is good for the heart. Like music.
Music has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on people, from fussy babies to stressed professionals. But how does it really work?
Researchers from the University of Maryland in Baltimore demonstrated for the first time the positive effects of the positive emotions triggered by music on endothelial function.
“We believe that the brain plays a pivotal role in vascular health. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are very important, but some individuals lacking these risk factors develop significant heart disease, and that may be partly related to their response to stress… If music can evoke positive emotions to counteract negative stresses of everyday life, it could have a very important influence on vascular health. It should be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle, just as we might incorporate other healthy habits,”
according to lead researcher and author Dr Michael Miller.
The study involved 10 healthy, non-smoking adults (7 men, 3 women) with the average age of 36 years. Endothelial function was measured as “brachial-artery-flow-mediated dilation” – indicated by measurements of blood flow in the upper arm. The assessments were done while the study participants were exposed to following stimuli:
- Music that triggered positive emotions
- Music that triggered anxiety
- A funny video clip
- A relaxation tape
The results are as follows:
- Increased 26% after listening to enjoyable music
- Decreased 6% after listening to anxiety-provoking music
- Increased 19% after watching a humorous video
- Increased 11% after listening to a relaxation tape
The authors think that compounds called endorphins may play a role in this “mind-heart” connection. When released from the brain, endorphin-like compounds have a direct effect on the vascular system.
In a previous study by researchers fromOhio State University, classical music was observed to be beneficial for cardiac rehabilitation.
Listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while on the treadmill, patients had a significant 3% higher scores on postexercise verbal fluency. Howevever, the music has no effect on depression, anxiety, or hemodynamic parameters.
Mental and emotional stress in out everyday life leads to vasoconstriction. These studies show that music cna actually counteract this. Although the effect of music on people is thought to be short-lived – about 30 minutes, it is though that when used on a regularly basis, it can have some cumulative benefit that may prove to be a strong preventive measure against cardiovascular disease.
So what more can we ask? As a preventive therapy, music is cheap, makes us happy, and comes with no side effects!
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