Music’s capacity to evoke emotion is one reason people love listening to it so much. Whether you want to feel energized and uplifted or calm and relaxed, you can probably conjure a few examples of melodies that put you in your desired frame of mind. As it turns out, those mood-related benefits may extend to your heart.
“The beating of your heart and your fight-or-flight system are regulated by your brain. Once you understand that, it makes sense that listening to music that evokes a certain mood might affect the heart’s function,” says Dr. Andrew Budson, a lecturer in neurology at Harvard Medical School and chief of cognitive and behavioral neurology at the VA Boston Healthcare System.
Tuning into music’s “feel good” vibes can have positive effects on several factors related to cardiovascular health. For example, listening to music before or during exercise can boost your stamina and make your workout more enjoyable, according to a review article in the February 2020 Psychological Bulletin. Researchers pooled results from 139 studies looking at music’s role in exercise and sport dating back more than a century. (The earliest known publication, from 1911, documented faster speeds in a bicycle race when a band played than when the band was silent.)
Music may help distract you from the unpleasant sensations you may feel when you’re exercising hard and getting tired. That may explain why listening to music seems to lower your level of perceived exertion, or how hard you feel your body is working.
The magnitude of music’s benefit is modest, the authors conclude. But just like with exercise, every little bit counts. And getting regular exercise is a great way to improve your heart health.
Some research suggests that listening to music with a fast tempo (170 to 190 beats per minute, or bpm) helps keep your heart rate up and lowers your perceived exertion more than music with a tempo that’s medium (130 to 150 bpm) or slow (90 to 110 bpm). But simply choosing music you enjoy to accompany your workout makes the most sense, says Dr. Budson. For other heart-related maneuvers, however, the right tempo can be vital (see “A lifesaving soundtrack?”).
|A lifesaving soundtrack?Anyone who’s taken a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class knows that the disco classic “Stayin’ Alive” provides the right rhythm for this lifesaving maneuver. Clocking in at 103 beats per minute (bpm), the song fits within the ideal range for doing chest compressions, which is between 100 and 120 bpm.But if you’re not a fan of disco, many other songs fill the bill, including “Work It” by Missy Elliot, “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, and “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus. For more suggestions, here’s a curated list of “Songs to do CPR to” on Spotify at www.health.harvard.edu/cprsongs.However, you should always call 911 if you think someone needs CPR, and if you put your phone on speaker, the operator can coach you through the steps, including counting the pace of the chest compressions.|
Diminishing pain and anxiety
Other research suggests that listening to music may help people cope with pain from heart-related procedures. In a review published May 29, 2020, in Pain Medicine, researchers looked at 14 studies on the effects of listening to music after (and sometimes during) heart procedures or surgeries. The types of music varied — including classical, jazz, and folk music, among other forms — but most were relaxing and soft. The authors concluded that music seems to help reduce pain; it also may slow breathing rate and lower systolic blood pressure.
Cardiologists at many medical centers, including Harvard’s teaching hospitals, allow patients listen to their choice of music during cardiac catheterizations, in which a doctor threads a catheter through an artery in the groin up to the heart. During these procedures, people are under conscious sedation, meaning they receive medications to make them relaxed and sleepy and to relieve pain. One small study found that listening to self-selected music for 20 minutes prior to a cardiac catheterization helps ease anxiety and pain, so that people require less medication during the procedure.
“Increasingly, pain medicine experts are concentrating less on fighting pain and more on distracting people from pain by focusing on other things. Music can provide that pleasant distraction,” says Dr. Budson.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2-3
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:6
“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”- Proverbs 16:3
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12:24 – Luke 12:24
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