Music for the heart

November 12, 2008 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, November 12 – Listening to your favourite music may be helpful to maintaining a healthy heart, according to a study.

The research team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine announced they had shown for the first time the emotions aroused by music enjoyed by the listener to be beneficial to a healthy blood vessel function.

The team, who in a 2005 study noted the cardiovascular benefits of laughter, presented their work at the 2008 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in New Orleans.

"I was impressed with the highly significant differences both before and after listening to joyful music as well as between joyful and anxious music," said head researcher Michael Miller, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Centre and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The study found that participants — 10 healthy, non-smoking volunteers — listening to music that gave them a sense of joy caused the inner-lining tissues of blood vessels to expand, which increased blood flow.

The response matched the result of the 2005 study of laughter.

To minimize desensitization of emotions felt by listening to their favourite music, participants were instructed to avoid listening to the pieces for a minimum of two weeks before the test.

"The idea here was that when they listened to this music that they really enjoyed, they would get an extra boost of whatever emotion was being generated," said Miller.

The study found that the diameter of the average upper arm blood vessel increased 26 percent after listening to joyful music, and listening to music that caused anxiety narrowed blood vessels by six percent.

The physiological impact of music may also affect the activity of the "feel good" brain chemicals called endorphins, according to the study.

The study’s results, said Miller, signal yet "another preventive strategy that we may incorporate in our daily lives to promote heart health."


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