Music has been known to benefit us in many ways, such as helping to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. While music therapy is often used to promote mental and emotional health, it may also improve the quality of life for people with physical health problems, such as heart failure. Listening to music and singing have both demonstrated benefits for cardiovascular health in an emerging area of research.
Music Therapy Can Improve Cardiovascular Health
A recent study of 159 patients with heart failure showed promising results in how music therapy can improve cardiovascular healing. In the study, the patients were placed in one of two groups. One group spent at least 30 minutes every day listening to music in addition to conventional treatment, and the second group only received conventional treatment. After three months, the patients in the first group showed a significant improvement in their heart health compared to the second group, as well as an improvement in anxiety, depression, sleep quality, and cognition.
“[This research] opens new doors to prevention and treatment strategies using music for patients with heart failure and cardiovascular disease.”
- Dr. Biykem Bozkurt, cardiologist at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and President of the Heart Failure Society of America
Can Music Lower Blood Pressure?
One commonly discussed attribute of music and music therapy is its well-known ability to put us at ease. In fact, researchers conducting the study made sure to select music that was most calming for each participant. The report specifies that the chosen music typically had a tempo between 60 and 80 beats per minute to mirror the human heart rate.
Other forms of relaxation therapy have already been proven to help patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation, yielding benefits that include reduction in resting heart rate, increased heart rate variability, and improved exercise tolerance. This is another reason why it is believed that the calming effect of music therapy known to benefit psychological health could potentially benefit cardiovascular health.
As with other forms of relaxation therapy, music therapy has been shown to bring patients into a restful, parasympathetic state, in which their heart rate and blood pressure lower. It also has been shown to help patients control their breathing, which is commonly seen in other relaxation therapy techniques that benefit heart health.
Is Singing Good for Your Heart?
Music therapy’s potential to affect a patient’s breathing doesn’t end with its ability to help with relaxation. It can also be used to stimulate activity as a form of exercise in the form of singing. Patients with heart disease who underwent 14-minute sessions of supervised singing were able to improve their vascular health and lower their risk of future cardiovascular disease events.
Other studies have also shown that singing can improve both heart and lung function. It has the potential to strengthen chest-wall muscles as well as improve heart function and heart rate variability.
Why Listening to Music Is Good for Your Overall Health
Music can also benefit heart health by altering one’s brain chemistry. The most common example of this is its ability to help people exercise longer during cardiac stress testing.
It has also been shown to improve blood vessel function, help heart rate and blood pressure levels return to baseline more quickly after physical exertion, ease anxiety in heart attack survivors, and help people recovering from heart surgery feel less pain and stress.
While it is still an emerging area, research into music therapy as a complementary treatment alongside traditional medical treatment for physical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and heart failure, is promising. Listening to music for relaxation shows great potential for lowering one’s stress, heart rate, and blood pressure, and singing continues to appear as a way to strengthen the heart.
Remember, music alone is not a treatment for heart disease. For more information about managing heart failure or cardiovascular conditions on a day-to-day basis, schedule an appointment with your St. Luke’s Health cardiologist. If you experience any chest pain, difficulty breathing, or other troubling symptoms, don’t hesitate to call 911 and seek treatment at a St. Luke's Health emergency room.
Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is consistently ranked among the top hospitals in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. Learn more about our cardiovascular program.
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