Can listening to music improve heart health?
BY: Nicole Gregory
Yes! A new study found that people who listened to music that made them feel good had a 26 percent increase in blood flow in their brachial artery, located in the upper arm, for about an hour afterward. This increase in blood flow indicates that the blood vessel expanded, which reflects a healthy output of nitric acid, a good-for-your-heart chemical that makes blood vessels function better and helps regulate blood flow, explains study leader Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Anxiety-provoking music, on the other hand, had the opposite effect. When study participants listened to music that made them feel anxious, their blood flow decreased by 6 percent.
“Our working hypothesis is that the brain releases endorphins in response to feeling happy, and this, in turn, [produces nitric oxide, which] activates the inner lining of the blood vessels to dilate,” says Dr. Miller. And because nitric oxide widens the arteries, it can also lower blood pressure. So, could listening to feel-good music be a simple way to prevent or even reverse high blood pressure? “We did not test this specifically, but based on previous research finding evidence of decreased blood pressure, it certainly is plausible,” says Dr. Miller.
Nicole Gregory, contributor to Live Right Live Well, is a Los Angeles-based writer who has written for numerous publications, including Weight Watchers magazine, Vegetarian Times, Viv, Fit Pregnancy and many others.