Whether you have a taste for rock, pop, rap, country, indie, or classical tunes, pretty much everyone listens to music. No matter what kind of music style is the one that speaks to you, a collection of recent studies has proven that listening to music is not only good for you emotional health, it has astonishing positive effects on your physical health.
One of the coolest and most noticeable effects that music can have on the body is how music can improve heart health and blood circulation. When blood pressure is low, this stops blood vessels from stiffening and becoming blocked, which in turn alleviates the risk of heart attacks. Cardiologist Dr. Michael Miller led a study about the relation between music and low blood pressure, and now prescribes music to his patients. He says there are immediate effects on the body, suggesting that music has an ability to “harmonize the body’s automatic nervous system, which is responsible for involuntary actions such as heart rate, digestion and perspiration”.
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Many surgeons listen to music while they operate for the calming effects, but it may also help the patients themselves, even under the influence of anesthesia. A 2005 Swedish study of 75 patients undergoing a hernia surgery found that the people who had music playing during their surgery reported feeling less pain than those who were operated on in silence.
It’s possible that listening to music lowers stress hormone levels and helps to release oxytocin into the bloodstream, which is a hormone that boosts the body’s muscle relaxation and ability to tolerate pain.
A study conducted in May of 2015 found that dementia patients who heard a live performance of classical music, and subsequently listened to a recording of the singer later were able to communicate and remember information better. Four weeks after the experiment, the patients were able to remember where they were, the time of day, and the names of people around them, as well as an improved ability to remember recent events. “Often music triggers a memory, and not just a song but maybe the time and place when the person heard it,” says Helen Odell-Miller, professor of music therapy at Anglia Ruskin University.
Music has also been found to improve overall heart rate variability, or the intervals between heartbeats, and how well our hearts respond to stress. According to Dr. Miller, a healthy person has an average of about 60-70 beats per minute. Listening to any type of music, especially music that you love, has been found to keep the heart beating calmly, and maintaining a health rhythm. Listening to music that you haven’t heard in awhile, especially songs that invoke memories create what Miller calls a ‘frisson effect’, which is a feeling of a chill down your spine. He thinks that this feeling has the most physiological effect on the body.
Finally, listening to music is proving to be valuable in aiding people who are recovering from a stroke or dealing with Parkinson’s disease. “In Parkinson’s, there’s a problem with brain signals, so the person may want to move but the body doesn’t respond,’ says Jessica Grahn, a neuroscientist studying music and the brain at Western University, Canada. According to Grahn, some Parkinson’s patients or stroke victims show incredible physical responses when exposed to music, appearing to almost become ‘unstuck’. This is thought to happen because music seems to stimulate the regions of the brain that control movement, and releases the chemical dopamine, which aids movement and energy levels.
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