11 March 2009

Music makes me feel so good and brought me a sense of joy. Do you feel the same? Music bring the joy for us is because tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels dilate (or expand) in order to increase blood flow. This healthy response has the same responds with laughter. On the other hand, when study volunteers listened to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, producing a potentially unhealthy response that reduces blood flow. Positive emotions, such as laughter, were good for vascular health, so other emotions, such as those evoked by music, have a similar effect.

According to a Study from University of Maryland Medical Center, Ten healthy, non-smoking volunteers, males and females participated in all phases of the randomized study. There were four phases. In one, volunteers listened to music they selected that evoked joy. The volunteers brought recordings of their favorite music to the laboratory, or, if they did not own the music, the investigators acquired the recordings. Another phase included listening to a type of music that the volunteers said made them feel anxious. In a third session, audio tapes to promote relaxation were played and in a fourth, participants were shown videotapes designed to induce laughter.

To minimize emotional desensitization, the volunteers were told to avoid listening to their favorite music for a minimum of two weeks. This test can be used to determine how the endothelium (the lining of blood vessels) responds to a wide range of stimuli, from exercise to emotions to medications. The endothelium has a powerful effect on blood vessel tone and regulates blood flow, adjusts coagulation and blood thickening, and secretes chemicals and other substances in response to wounds, infections, cardiovascular disease or irritation.

During the blood vessel dilation test, blood flow in the brachial artery, located in the upper arm, is restricted by a blood pressure cuff and released. An ultrasound device measures how well the blood vessel responds to the sudden increase in flow, with the result expressed as a percentage change in vessel diameter. After the baseline test, each volunteer was exposed to the music or humorous video for 30 minutes.

Study results
Compared to baseline, the average upper arm blood vessel diameter increased 26% after the joyful music phase, while listening to music that caused anxiety narrowed blood vessels by 6%.

During the laughter phase of the study, a 19 percent increase in dilation showed a significant trend. The relaxation phase increased dilation by 11 percent on average; a number that the investigators determined was not statistically significant.

Could other types of music produce similar positive effects on blood vessels? It's possible. Dr. Miller believes that a physiological reaction to the type of music is behind the formation of positive and negative blood vessel reaction.

That physiological impact may also affect the activity of brain chemicals called endorphins. The active listening to music evokes such raw positive emotions likely in part due to the release of endorphins, part of that mind-heart connection that we yearn to learn so much more about. These results were music to my ears because they signal another preventive strategy that we may incorporate in our daily lives to promote heart health.

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