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Music Can Make the Heart Beat Faster
Date:6/22/2009

Or slower, with possible medical applications, research suggests

MONDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Loud music made hearts beat faster and blood pressure go up, while softer passages lowered both heart rates and blood pressure, a new study shows.

It's the latest word on how music affects the cardiovascular system, from researchers at Pavia University in Italy. Their earlier studies found that music with quicker tempos had people breathing faster, with increased heart rate and blood pressure, while slower tempos produced opposite effects.

The findings "increase our understanding of how music could be used in rehabilitative medicine," study author Dr. Luciano Bernardi, a professor of internal medicine at Pavia, said in a statement. The report appears in the June 22 online edition of Circulation.

It's a lesson that already is being put to medical use, said Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who has done his own research assessing the cardiovascular effects of music.

"The take-home message from this paper is now being employed at many hospitals, including ours," Miller said. "In the cardiovascular unit, we play music that is very soothing and quiet. On a subconscious level, it produces a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate."

The Italian and Maryland studies differ in important aspects. The Pavia researchers played classical music, including selections from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a Bach cantata, and arias from operas by Puccini and Verdi. They also measured the effects on the cardiovascular systems of two dozen volunteers in their mid-20s, half of whom were trained singers, who listened through headphones.

Readings from electrocardiograms and skin monitors showed that a crescendo, a swelling volume of music, was stimulating, while decrescendos had relaxing effects. The effects were modest but
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