Opera could help stroke rehabilitation

Some music can slow the heart and lower blood pressure

Listening to the right kind of music can slow the heart and lower blood pressure, a study has revealed.

Rousing operatic music, like Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, full of crescendos and diminuendos is best and could help stroke rehabilitation, say the authors.

Music is already used holistically at the bedside in many hospitals. Not only is it cheap and easy to administer, music has discernible physical effects on the body as well as mood, Circulation journal reports.

Dr Luciano Bernardi and colleagues, from Italy’s Pavia University, asked 24 healthy volunteers to listen to five random tracks of classical music and monitored how their bodies responded.

Every musical crescendo – a gradual volume increase – ‘aroused’ the body and led to narrowing of blood vessels under the skin, increased blood pressure and heart rate and increased respiratory rates. Conversely, the diminuendos – gradual volume decreases – caused relaxation, which slowed heart rate and lowered blood pressure.

The researchers tested out various combinations of music and silence on the volunteers and found tracks rich in emphasis that alternated between fast and slow, like operatic music, appeared to be the best for the circulation and the heart.

Dr Bernadi said: ‘Music induces a continuous, dynamic – and to some extent predictable – change in the cardiovascular system.’

Music in Hospitals is a UK-based charity that provides live music to hospitals, hospices and care and residential homes across the country. It was originally set up after World War II to help injured veterans.

Its chief executive, Diana Greenman, said: ‘We have seen enormous benefits in people who have had strokes or heart attacks. The power of music is just incredible.’

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