It is no doubt that music resonates with many people. Most individuals are always happy to listen to their favourite songs or tunes, even if they are in languages they may not be familiar with.
But aside from pleasure, research shows that music also holds health benefits that can relieve people of the suffering associated with various ailments and medical procedures.
A new study presented at the American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session shows that listening to music for 30 minutes daily can be beneficial to heart patients.
People with heart conditions usually suffer from episodes of severe chest pains and high anxiety levels soon after heart attacks. This is known as “post-infarction angina.”
According to the novel study, music – combined with the standard medical care given to affected patients – can help lower the levels of pain and anxiety for affected patients.
"There have been very few studies analysing the effects of music on heart conditions," said Dr Predrag Mitrovic, a professor of cardiology at the University of Belgrade School of Medicine and the study's lead author. "Based on our findings, we believe that music therapy can help all patients after a heart attack, not only patients with early “post-infarction angina.” It's also very easy and inexpensive to implement."
During the study, the researchers recruited 350 patients diagnosed with heart attack and early “post-infarction angina” (chest pain and anxiety) at a medical centre in Serbia.
Half were randomly selected to receive the standard treatment that is normally given to patients suffering from post-infarction angina.
This included a variety of medications such as nitrates, aspirin, clot-preventing drugs, beta-blockers, statins, calcium channel blockers, blood pressure-lowering medications and the angina-reducing drug ranolazine.
The other half of the study participants received regular music sessions in addition to the standard treatment.
Patients receiving music therapy first underwent a test to determine which musical genre their body was likely to respond to positively.
They were then asked to listen to their designated musical selection for 30 minutes each day whenever it was convenient for them to sit (ideally while resting with their eyes closed).
Patients continued with these daily listening episodes for seven years and documented their sessions in a log.
They returned to the medical centre for follow-up assessments every three months for the first year and annually thereafter.
At the end of seven years, music therapy was found to be more effective than standard treatment alone in terms of reducing anxiety, pain sensation and pain distress after heart attacks.
The patients with music therapy, on average, had anxiety scores 30 percent lower than those on standard treatment alone. They reported less severe symptoms by about 25 percent, compared with those that did not listen to music.
The patients also had significantly lower rates of certain heart conditions. These included an 18 percent reduction in the rate of heart failure; 23 percent lower rate of subsequent heart attack; 20 percent lower rate of needing coronary artery bypass graft sur franchise.
"Unrelieved anxiety can produce an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity, leading to an increase in cardiac workload," Mitrovic said.
He suggested regular sessions of listening to music could interrupt that cascade of events by reducing the anxiety associated with angina after a heart attack.
The findings of this new research are in line with a 2013 Cochrane Systematic Review study, which revealed that listening to music provided some relief for coronary heart disease patients suffering from anxiety by reducing heart rate and blood pressure. There was also some indication that music listening improved mood.
Past research has also shown that music can significantly reduce pain and anxiety in people undergoing surgery. A 2015 study published in “The Lancet” journal revealed that listening to music significantly reduced the need for post-operative pain medication among patients that listened to it before, during or after a surgical procedure.
During the research, scientists from Brunel University and Queen Mary University of London reviewed 72 previously published research trials (involving over 7,000 patients) which looked at the impact of music on post-operative recovery compared to conventionally used pain relief medication .
The results of the study showed that most patients who listened to music were significantly less nervous and appeared more satisfied after their surgery. They also needed less pain medication and reported significantly less pain compared with those that did not listen to music.
The study further revealed that when patients selected their own music, there was a slightly greater reduction in pain and use of pain relief than when it was chosen for them.