Now a study has found that in fact music can strengthen the heart – and improve the recovery of patients suffering from heart disease.
Cardiologists said the findings suggested that all people could boost the health of their hearts simply by listening to their favorite tunes.
Patients with cardiac disease were divided into three groups. Some were enrolled in exercise classes for three weeks.
Others were put in the same classes, but also told to listen to music of their choice at any point for 30 minutes every day. A third group only listened to music, and did not take cardio-vascular exercise, which is usually prescribed to those with heart disease.
At the end of the trial, the patients who had listened to music as well as exercising had boosted crucial measures of heart function significantly, and improved their exercise capacity by 39 per cent.
The group which only took aerobic exercise improved their capacity by 29 per cent. Even those who took no exercise and only listened to their favorite music for half an hour a day improved their exercise function by 19 per cent, the study of 74 patients found.
The measures of improved heart function included improved endothelial function, which is necessary to maintain the body’s vascular response.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Amsterdam, suggested that the release of key hormones while listening to music was behind the changes.
Prof Delijanin Ilic, the lead investigator, from the Institute of Cardiology, University of Nis, Serbia, said: “When we listen to music we like then endorphins are released from the brain and this improves our vascular health. There is no ‘best music’ for everyone – what matters is what the person likes and makes them happy.”
She said other studies examining the impact of music suggested there might be some types of music which were less good for the heart – with heavy metal more likely to raise stress levels, while opera, classical and other types of ‘joyful’ music were more likely to stimulate endorphins.
Prof Ilic said: “It is also possible that it is better to have music without words, because it is possible that the words themselves can upset the emotions.”
Although the study was carried out on patients suffering from heart disease, she said she believed the findings were likely to apply to a wider population, since it is already known that exercise boosts coronary health in healthy people.
Prof Ilic said: “Listening to favorite music alone and in addition to regular exercise training improves endothelial function and therefore may be an adjunct method in the rehabilitation of patients with coronary artery disease. There is no ‘ideal’ music for everybody and patients should choose music which increases positive emotions and makes them happy or relaxed.”