Listening to music may benefit patients who suffer severe stress and anxiety associated with having and undergoing treatment for coronary heart disease. A Cochrane Systematic Review found that listening to music could decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of anxiety in heart patients.
Living with heart disease is extremely stressful. The uncertainties and anxieties surrounding diagnosis and the various medical procedures involved in treatment can significantly worsen the condition. For example, stress can increase blood pressure, leading to increased risk of complications. Music listening may help to alleviate stress and therefore reduce this risk.
"Our findings suggest music listening may be beneficial for heart disease patients," says Joke Bradt, who works at the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia. "But the trials we looked at were generally small and varied in terms of styles of music used and length of music sessions. More research on the specifics of music listening is certainly warranted."
The researchers reviewed data from 23 studies, which together included 1,461 patients. Two studies focused on patients treated by trained music therapists, but most did not, using instead interventions where patients listened to pre-recorded music on CDs offered by healthcare professionals.
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, although no improvement was seen for patients suffering from depression due to the disease.
"We all know that music can impact on our emotions, our physiological responses, as well as our outlook on life, and this early research shows that it is well worth finding out more about how it could help heart disease patients. In particular, it would be interesting to learn more about the potential benefits of music offered by trained music therapists, which may be differ substantially from those associated with pre-recorded music," says Bradt.