Jun 14

How Music Heals Your Heart

music heals

Music heals the heart and soul

The other day I was thinking about one of Elton John’s songs, “sad songs say so much.” Music has a unique power to move us, especially in matters of the heart. But what about the power of music to heal the heart—not when it comes to love but medicine.

The idea that music heals is not new. One of the most fascinating areas I have come across concerning music and health is how listening to selected songs can transform a person who has Alzheimer’s disease from a near catatonic state to an animated, interactive individual. Much also has been written about the power of music to heal mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Music is even used to calm dairy cows as a means to improve milk production.

Music also has a direct effect on biological functions, such as heart rate, stress hormone (cortisol) levels, and blood pressure. An example of such biological impact was recently reported by the British Cardiovascular Society. Peter Sleight, Professor Emeritus of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Oxford has uncovered evidence that repeated musical phrases can have an impact on heart rate, suggesting that music can be used to treat heart conditions.

Music heals the heart

About two decades ago, Sleight and his colleagues discovered that a 10-second phrase from the Latin Ave Maria coincided with arterial pressure oscillations believed by some experts to be a measure of sympathetic activity. Since that time, the team found that this 10-second rhythm also was present in other music, especially those created by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.

So the experts took the idea several steps further and tested the impact of six different styles of music to 12 musically naïve medical students and 12 conservatory level musicians. While the volunteers listened to the music, the experts were evaluating their cardiovascular responses, such as blood pressure and pulse. The music was presented to each participant in random order since the first style presented to individuals is deemed to be more influential.

The cardiovascular responses were similar among the participants to the six different styles, which ranged from calming music (Indian rajas) to fast classical and jazz. Based on these findings, the authors suggested that it is possible to use music for its calming effects without having to “cater the music utilized to each individual.”

Sleight remarked that “We desperately need some new properly controlled studies to evaluate the potential uses of music therapy.”

music healsIn a previous review appearing in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the authors evaluated 26 studies that involved 1,369 patients with coronary heart disease. The studies had compared music interventions and standard care versus standard care alone on the psychological and physiological responses in the participants.

Overall, the reviewers found that listening to music had a positive impact on anxiety in these patients, especially those with myocardial infarction. The benefits were greatest when the patients were allowed to choose their own music. Listening to music also had a positive effect on heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure, pain, and sleep quality.

In my opinion, we are under appreciating the health benefits of music and need to incorporate it into treatment plans on many levels. The cost is virtually zero and it seems the side effects would be the same. Let the researchers do their studies, but in the meantime, let the music play!

Also Read: Why all children need music


MedicalNewsToday. Groove is in the heart. 2015 June 9

Modern Farmer. Milking to music

Bradt  J et al. Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews 2013 Dec 28; 12:CD006577

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Facebook