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The Health Benefits of Listening to Music

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The Health Benefits of Listening to Music

Classical music particularly music composed by Verdi has been shown to reduce blood pressure.  A study at the University of Maryland Medical Centre in the U.S discovered that when they measured the blood pressure of ten healthy individuals, as they listened to music their blood vessels dilated by 26 percent. Dr Michael Miller, the cardiologist who conducted the study said ‘We see the effects immediately, which suggests there is a direct effect on the blood vessels.  Music seems to harmonise the body’s autonomic nervous system which is responsible for involuntary actions such as a heart rate, digestion and perspiration. Music was part of our ancestors’ socialisation process. It enabled us to form and develop relationships important for our survival.’

A Swedish study conducted in 2005 revealed that 75 patients who underwent surgery for their hernia’s and had music playing during their operations felt less pain after their surgery.  Scientists believe that this is because music may help to release oxytocin.  This hormone increases relaxation and tolerance to pain.  A study in 2011, which was published in the Frontiers of Psychology, showed that patients who listened to Bach and Louis Armstrong during their hip replacement surgery did not need as much anaesthesia, and their cortisol levels were lower.  Music therapy has being found to be beneficial in treating dementia patients especially if it is live entertainment.  Helen Odell-Miller, a Professor of Music therapy stated ‘Often music triggers a memory and not just a song but maybe the time and place when the person heard it.  Music helps them find a new way to show how they are feeling, which improves relationships with their carers’.

A study, published in the Journal of Aging and Mental health, in 2013 proved that after 6 weeks of music therapy, dementia patients were less anxious and their anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medications were reduced.  Jessica Grahn, a neuroscientist studying music and the brain at Western University in Canada said she has found there are significant improvements in Parkinson’s patients when they listen to music.  ‘Some patients show incredible benefits when you start playing music.  Their movements are freer and they become “unstuck”.  She said “this could be due to the release of dopamine in their brain.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which sends signals to the brain, and it is depleted in patients with Parkinson’s disease.” 

A Finnish study, published in 2013, found that stroke patients had improved concentration and memory after listening to music.  Studies have also found that playing music or taking up singing has helped to reduce the symptoms of asthma sufferers. Playing a wind instrument, such as a trumpet strengthens the upper airways.  On a personal note (no pun intended), years ago when my dad suffered a stroke, I noticed that he seemed less agitated when he listened to classical music.  He has a love for Mozart and he smiled as he heard the composer’s pieces.  Afterwards he was in better form and he was also more communicative.  I definitely think that music therapy is an effective treatment for all health conditions.  Music lifts our spirits and warms our hearts.  It brings us to a place where no one else can bring us to.

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