Groovin’ for Heart Health
After waiting nearly two hours for a bus in the rain, my muscles felt tight and my pulse was racing. But I dialed up Creedence Clearwater Revival on my iPod, and soon my toes started tapping and my shoulders relaxed.
According to a recent study at the University of Maryland, I got more than just a feeling of relaxation and well-being from listening to my favorite tunes. In fact, the music might have had a positive effect on my heart!
The researchers found that when people listened to their favorite music, the blood vessels in their arms expanded, increasing blood flow to the heart and signaling relaxation. From classical to country to heavy metal, the type of music didn’t seem to matter—subjects’ hearts benefited as long as he or she found the tunes pleasurable.
Researchers think expanding vessels may increase the activity of endorphins, brain chemicals associated with the so-called “high” people experience after a hard workout. These chemicals may also account for the euphoria felt while jamming to a favorite melody.
In addition to heart health, listening to your favorite tunes might have an array of other benefits. For example, studies have shown that music eases discomfort and pain during medical procedures like colonoscopy and decreases the sedative needed while a patient is “asleep” during surgery.
So when you’re feeling stressed, consider plugging in and tuning out. You might be doing your heart a favor.
Related on Scienceline:
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Music and Medicine: A profile of a music therapist.