October 7, 2005

Music is good for the heart

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study shows that
listening to music that has a slow or meditative tempo has a
relaxing effect on people, slowing their breathing and heart
rate, whereas listening to faster music with a more upbeat
tempo has the opposite effect -- speeding up respiration and
heart rate.

The results, which appear in the journal Heart, support a
growing body of research on the potential stress-reducing
health benefits of music.

Other research has shown that music can alleviate stress,
improve athletic performance, improve movement in
neurologically impaired patients with stroke or Parkinson's
disease, and even boost milk production in cattle, Dr. Peter
Sleight from the University of Oxford in the UK and colleagues
note in their report.

In the current study, researchers monitored breathing rate,
blood pressure and other heart and respiratory indexes, in 24
healthy young men and women, before and while listening to
short excerpts of different kinds of music including slow and
fast classical music of differing complexities and rap music.
They also monitored the subjects during 2-minute musical

Half of the subjects were trained musicians; the other half
had no musical training.

The investigators report that listening to music initially
produced varying levels of arousal -- accelerated breathing,
increased blood pressure and heart rate -- that is directly
proportional to the tempo of the music and perhaps the
complexity of the rhythm.

The style of the music or an individual's music preference
seems less important than the tempo of the music.

They also found that calm is induced by slower rhythms and,
interestingly, by short pauses or intermissions in the music.
Pausing the music for 2 minutes actually induces a condition of
relaxation greater than that observed before subjects began
listening to the music tracks, the investigators report.

These effects are most striking for people who have musical
training, perhaps because they have learnt to synchronize their
breathing with the musical segments. "Musicians breathe faster
with faster tempi, and had slower baseline breathing rates than
non-musicians," according to the investigators.

Sleight and coworkers speculate that music may give
pleasure (and perhaps health benefits) as a result of a
controlled alteration between arousal and relaxation.

The present study suggests, they conclude, that the
appropriate selection of music -- alternating fast and slower
rhythms interspersed with pauses -- can be used to induce
relaxation and may, therefore, be beneficial in heart disease
and stroke.

SOURCE: Heart 2005.