A new study finds that some types of operas and classical music are perfectly synchronous with the natural rhythm of the body and thus can help reduce blood pressure. Cardiologists find the research promising and may look at encouraging their patients who have heart conditions to listen to music.
The study, which will be presented at the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester this week, took more than 20 years to complete. The research team led by Professor Peter Sleight, a cardiologist from the University of Oxford, asked study participants to listen to music of different genres. They then monitored the response of the participants by measuring their cardiovascular parameters such as blood pressure and heart rate. The slow music pieces included "Va Pensiero" from the opera Nabucco by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, the aria "Nessun Dorma" from Giacomo Puccini's opera Turnadot and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 adagio. Indian sitar music, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, a faster classical violin concerto, and a recording from the Red Hot Chili Peppers were also played.
The researchers found that the music compositions by Verdi with recurrent 10-second rhythms are flawlessly in sync with the natural changes in blood pressure and subsequently decrease the heart rate. Vivaldi's piece did not cause any effects in the blood pressure and heart rate, while the song from the Red Hot Chili Peppers elevated the heart rate of the participants. The responses of the study subjects in all the songs were similar, thus indicating that songs that relax individuals do not depend on whether the piece has a calm or upbeat tune.
Music is already being used commercially as a calming therapy but this has happened independent of controlled studies into its effectiveness, Sleight says.
"Our research has provided improved understanding as to how music, particularly certain rhythms, can affect your heart and blood vessels," he notes. In the end the research team states that further comprehensive investigation is necessary to alleviate the doubts associated with the accurate therapeutic effects of music.
"We know that stress can play a role in cardiovascular disease so the calming effect of music may have some potential as a therapy," says Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. "However, as Professor Sleight points out, more robust evidence is needed before we see cardiologists prescribing a dose of Taylor Swift or 30 minutes of Vivaldi a day."
Photo: Roman Boed | Flickr