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Soothing Songs Please the Heart

Particularly when patients pick the tunes, study suggests

WEDNESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- If you have heart problems, you might want to plug in that iPod or pop in a CD of mellow songs.

Hospital patients with coronary heart disease reduced their heart rates, breathing rate and blood pressure just by listening to music, a Temple University review of 23 previous studies found.

The report, published in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, found that the soothing effects were greatest when these patients chose their own tunes. For example, patients' pulse rates fell by more beats per minute when they made the selections compared with those who listened to music selected by researchers.

"So we do know from clinical experience that if people select music they like, and the music has sedative qualities such as slow tempo, predictable harmonies and absence of sudden changes, they will be better able to relax to the music," researcher Joke Bradt, assistant director of the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple University, said in a news release issued by the college.

The review looked at past studies on how music affected 1,461 patients with coronary heart disease, either during a cardiac procedure or within two days of hospitalization. In all the studies, the music used had slow tempos, but in some cases, a music therapist was employed to help with the song selections.

Dr. Robert Bonow, a past president of the American Heart Association, challenged the findings. While agreeing that alleviating stress is important for heart patients, he said the new review shows "no conclusive evidence that this relaxation therapy actually reduces the stress, let alone reducing the outcome of the stress."

"Exercise is beneficial because it reduces stress, but it also lowers blood pressure," Bonow, chief of cardiology at Northwestern University, said in the same news release.

More information

The American Music Therapy Association Inc. has more about music therapy.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Temple University, news release, April 14, 2009

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