Around 700,000 people survive a heart attack in the US each year, with approximately 1 in 9 of these survivors experiencing subsequent episodes of chest pain and anxiety within 48 hours afterwards. Addressing this, researchers from the University of Belgrade School of Medicine in Serbia have found that listening to just 30 minutes of music everyday after a heart attack may help reduce experiences of pain and anxiety.
For the study, the researchers examined 350 patients recently diagnosed with a heart attack and early post-infarction angina, periods of chest pain experienced shortly after having a heart attack. While half of the patients only received standard treatments including nitrates, aspirin and beta blockers, the other half took part in regular music sessions alongside standard treatment.
For those undertaking music sessions, each participant was first tested to see which genre of music their body had the most positive response to. They were then asked to listen to this genre for 30 minutes per day while sitting quietly with their eyes closed. In total, patients in both groups were monitored for seven years.
In the end, the researchers found that the combination of listening to music and standard treatment was more effective in reducing anxiety and pain than standard treatment by itself. In total, those in the music therapy group were a third less anxious than those on standard treatment. They were also 18% less likely to experience heart failure, 23% less likely to have another heart attack, 20% less likely to need a coronary artery bypass graft surgery and 16% less likely to die from heart problems. More than this, they were around 25% less likely to experience angina.
But why? Although it is not known why music has this calming effect, the researchers suggest that music may help combat activity in the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for “fight-or-flight” responses. In intercepting here, they say that music may be able to help regulate heart rate variability as well as blood pressure, thus reducing strain on the cardiovascular system.
Pedrag Mitrovic, the study’s lead author said, “There have been very few studies analysing the effects of music on heart conditions...Based on our findings, we believe music therapy can help all patients after a heart attack, not only patients with early post-infarction angina. It’s also very easy and inexpensive to implement.”