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Heart music

Most of us know eating a balanced diet helps maintain a healthy heart, and that there’s nothing better than a romantic ballad to nourish blossoming love. But did you know blasting Beethoven might also help to keep your cardiovascular system in tune? New research suggests that music can directly trigger physiological changes that modulate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. I’m definitely breathless after listening to Cyndi Lauper’s I Drove All Night, but that might be from dancing my rigorous jazz ballet routine, not necessarily from the emotion it engenders.

Researchers have found that the continuous, and somewhat predictable changes in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, mirror musical tempo. They suggest that understanding the mechanisms of how certain types of music affect our physiology could lead to potential new therapies for stroke and other conditions – many already attest to the healing powers of Jimmy Page’s guitar solos, or the Raconteur’s legendary riffs.

According to an article in Scientific American, “Scientists found that musical selections with crescendos, especially those with a series of them (think: Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody), led to proportional constriction of blood vessels and increases in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. These measures decreased during decrescendos and silent periods. The team also found that “rich” music phrases around 10 seconds long, like those rhythms from famous arias by Verdi, caused heart rate and other parts of the cardiovascular system to synchronize with the music. Both groups experienced this entrainment, although musicians showed a stronger response.”

Of course, this paper provides further evidence that it’s always a BAD idea to listen to overly lugubrious songs about love lost after a break-up – there’s finally proof that the physical pain you felt when you’re heart was breaking wasn’t entirely made up.

Luckily, I have the perfect recipe to keep my heart pumping to the right beat – My Secret Playlist. Discover what tracks get your favorite musician’s heart started. Donna Summers loves Ferggie’s Big Girls Don’t Cry – for those of you who thought musicians only listen to their own genre, get ready to eat your heart out (while still maintaining good cardiovascular rhythms, of course).