Feeling stressed? Try music!

We all know that music makes us feel good and that it can help us relax. We also know that chronic stress causes blood vessels to become rigid and the risk for arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) increases as we age. But did you know that music can affect our cardiovascular system?

CNN posted an article recently about some research a cardiologist did with music. Dr. Mike Miller is a research cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. The article reports that he tested the effects of music on the heart and blood vessels by using imaging to measure the blood vessel size of people listening to music. He found that “the inner lining of the blood vessel relaxed, opened up, and produced chemicals that are protective to the heart.” He also found that the vessels constricted when people listened to music they did not enjoy. The study also found that listening to the same song repeatedly decreased its affect on the body.

Most people can get this effect on their own. You don’t need any training to pick out a CD or download an MP3 of your favorite song and listen to it. You can even decide to listen to music in order to improve your heart health on your own. So why do we need music therapists?

I have worked in nursing homes with people who have dementia or are recovering from a stroke. Using my skills as a music therapist I could determine which music would be most beneficial to each client and then provide the music in a way that helped the client remain engaged in music making or music listening. So a music therapist is necessary when the client is less able to provide the stimulus (in this case, music) independently or when there has been an acute event, like cardiovascular surgery or a stroke.

A music therapist may also be useful if you have tried reducing stress or lowering blood pressure and have been unsuccessful on your own.

So go listen to some of your favorite tunes and know that you are improving your cardiovascular system, too. And if you need some assistance or guidance, contact me!