Listening to Music is Good for Your Heart

Listening to Music is Good for Your Heart Collaborator

I have noted in a previous article that heart function was apparently “improved” by listening to the harp music. For this month’s article, I would like to present a couple of studies that have been presented in peer reviewed publications that appear to add some scientific credibility to that observation. The first study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology's annual congress in Amsterdam, and suggested that the release of key hormones while listening to music was behind the changes.

In an article out of The Telegraph by Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent, 01 Sep 2013 she reported that Prof Delijanin Ilic, the lead investigator, from the Institute of Cardiology, University of Nis, Serbia, divided a group of 74 patients with heart disease into three groups. Some were enrolled in exercise classes for three weeks. Others were put in the same classes, but also told to listen to music of their choice at any point for 30 minutes every day. A third group only listened to music, and did not take cardio-vascular exercise, which is usually prescribed to those with heart disease.

At the end of the trial, the patients who had listened to music as well as exercising had boosted crucial measures of heart function significantly, and improved their exercise capacity by 39 per cent. The group which only took aerobic exercise improved their capacity by 29 per cent. Even those who took no exercise and only listened to their favorite music for half an hour a day improved their exercise function by 19 per cent.

Prof Ilic explained, “When we listen to music we like endorphins are released from the brain and this improves our vascular health. There is no 'best music' for everyone - what matters is what the person likes and makes them happy." She said other studies examining the impact of music suggested there might be some types of music which were less good for the heart - with heavy metal more likely to raise stress levels, while opera, classical and other types of 'joyful' music were more likely to stimulate endorphins. It is also possible that it is better to have music without words, because it is possible that the words themselves can upset the emotions."

It appears through these results that music could become a viable therapy for rehabilitation from heart disease. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see doctors begin to order “Music Therapy” on a prescription pad to send home with the patient?!

Another article that added further evidence on how we can measure the improvement of exercise function comes out of an article written by Nicole Napoli, published in the American College of Cardiology - WASHINGTON (Mar 01, 2018) -A study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session suggests listening to music during a standard cardiac stress test can help extend the time someone is able to perform the test, yielding important information about an individual’s heart health and capacity for exercise.

            Music can have a powerful impact on our mood, signaling the brain to release feel-good and energy-boosting chemicals. While earlier studies have looked at how music might influence specific markers of heart health, this study is the first to evaluate its impact on exercise tolerance during cardiac stress testing—widely used to measure the effects of exercise on the heart. On average, people who listened to music during the test were able to exercise for almost one minute longer than those who didn’t have tunes playing in their ears.

“At least on a small scale, this study provides some evidence that music may help serve as an extra tool to help motivate someone to exercise more, which is critical to heart health,” said Waseem Shami, MD, a cardiology fellow at Texas Tech University Health Sciences in El Paso, Texas, and the study’s lead author. “I think it’s something we intuitively knew, but we found [to be true]. I suspect if it had been a larger study, we’d see a bigger difference.”

A stress test is performed either on a treadmill or a stationary bicycle and the person being tested is connected to heart monitoring equipment. Certain parameters are predetermined by the doctor performing the test so that the heart is not over taxed. Once these parameters are set, the person being tested is gradually increased in the level of muscular effort to bring the heart rate up and assess for any muscular pain that may begin signaling poor circulation as a result of insufficient cardiac function. The ability to stay exercising for a longer period of time can be interpreted as an improvement in cardiac function or exercise function.

 A total of 127 patients (53 years of age on average) were randomly assigned to either listen to up-tempo music (mostly Latin-inspired music) or have no music playing during their stress tests. To “blind” the staff and clinicians, all participants wore headphones during their test. Individuals had similar medical histories, including diabetes and hypertension. The majority of participants were Hispanic, reflecting their patient population. There were more females than males in both groups (61.2 and 66.7 percent in the music and control groups, respectively).

Dr.Shami explained that stress tests can be challenging—even painful—for some people because the treadmill speed and incline is increased every three minute. “After six minutes, you feel like you are running up a mountain, so even being able to go 50 seconds longer means a lot,” he said.

Exercise time was significantly longer in the music group compared with the control group, 505.8 versus 455.2 seconds, respectively—an absolute difference of about 50.6 seconds. In addition, there was a (non-significant) trend toward longer metabolic equivalent of task (METs) when compared with the non-music group. A MET is a ratio of the rate of energy expended during an activity to the rate of energy used at rest. Generally, the higher the number, the more energy used and the harder someone worked.

Dr. Shami believes that music can be an important factor in helping to get people motivated to exercise as well as be able to exercise better and longer and more efficiently. Lack of exercise is one of the major risk factors in heart disease and even mild walking can improve a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease significantly.

Once again, Music is showing itself to be a great benefit to our daily lives, both physically and psychologically and even spiritually. What would we do without music in our lives?!