Music and Blood Pressure- How to soothe your Soul and your BP

“I think music in itself is healing…

It’s something we are all touched by.

No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

(Billy Joel)

Music as a form of artistic expression comes in a multitude of types - Pop, Rock, Jazz, Heavy Metal, New Age, Folk, Classical to name a few genres.  It is the universal language and it has been with us since the dawn of time.

But when it comes to health matters, can music have a positive influence?  It has always been said that music soothes the soul.  It is used as therapy for many types of disorders.  So…can we use music to lower blood pressure?  If so, does it matter what type of music we listen to in order to achieve the desired effects?  Apparently so!

Tempo Makes the Difference:

Upon further investigation into the effect of music on blood pressure, it soon becomes clear that certain forms of music are more successful in bringing about a lowering of the blood pressure.  Music which has a slower tempo, less dynamic changes, frequent repetition of melodic passages and does not include a vocal component tends to exert a more beneficial influence on not only blood pressure, but also heart rate and cortisol levels.  Cortisol is the stress hormone which when released constricts blood vessels and in turn causes higher blood pressure.

A recent study featured in the German journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International showed that listening to music for about 25 minutes per session from the Classical and Romantic Periods (Mozart and Johann Strauss, Jr.) had a greater impact on reducing blood pressure levels than listening to the music of the popular Pop group ABBA.

Of the three genres of music presented,  the greatest reduction in both systolic and diastolic pressure and heart rate was seen in those study subjects who listened to Mozart’s Symphony 40 in G minor.

Symphony 40 in G minor - Mozart. 2nd Movement

The British Medical Journal - Heart has also published a study which addresses the subject of Tempo in music and its effects on blood pressure.  The following variety of musical styles were incorporated into the study:

  • Indian raga (Introduction from Debabrata Chaudhuri’s “Raga Maru Behag”)
  • Slow classical (Adagio from Beethoven’s “9th Symphony”)
  • Fast classical (Presto from Vivaldi’s “L’estate”)
  • Dodecaphonic (“Zart bewegt” from Webern’s “6 Pieces for Orchestra”)]
  • Rap (Red Hot Chili Peppers: “The Power of Equality”)
  • Techno (Gigi D’Agostino: “You Spin Me Round”)

They found that music with the faster tempo and simpler rhythms tended to cause an increase in BP, heart and breathing rates.  These responses were however less marked with slower music.  A significant aspect of this study was the insertion of pauses, or breaks in the music at specific intervals.  And this is where the greatest benefit to blood pressure and heart rate resulted.

The lead researchers in the study believe that the use of the pauses in the music:

 “mimics a typical relaxation technique in which a person focuses on a physical or mental object (ie, music) and then releases the attention, achieving a relaxed state.” 

But … what if Classical is not to your taste?

Never fear - there are other options available.

Marconi Union for example has produced an album including a song which has been described as:

“scientifically proven” to be the most relaxing song ever produced!

Studies have found the song Weightless by itself was “11 percent more relaxing than any other song and made participants “drowsy,” trumping Mozart, Enya, and Coldplay.”

The group produced the following video to accompany the song:

Parting Thoughts

It is very reassuring to know that Music - one of the pure joys and gifts of life - can also have a positive influence on lowering blood pressure.

Personally, I like to find a quiet spot where I can relax,  turn on my favourite piece of music - usually classical, but not always - and practice deep breathing along to the soothing melodies of the music.  After about 30 minutes I feel totally at ease and refreshed.

And now it’s great to know that in addition to that feeling of calm and well-being, there is a very good chance that my blood pressure has dropped as well.

Please feel free to share your experiences with using music to help lower blood pressure, or any other feedback you may have in the comments section below.  Happy listening!!