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Can Music Improve Your Health? Studies Say Yes!

Posted on March 8th, 2016

Turns out that listening to music may stimulate more health benefits than you may have realized! In addition to being a great motivator during exercise, studies show that music may have a positive impact on your health and well-being in a variety of ways, including better sleep, reduced anxiety and depression, and improved immune functioning. These benefits, along with pain reduction and assistance with memory loss, are important to note for people of all ages, but especially for seniors who may benefit from enhanced health and lifestyle with less need for medication.

Reduce Stress, Lower Blood Pressure and Aid Relaxation
Daniel Levitin, a psychologist researching the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal, has analyzed 400 studies on how music can produce physiological benefits. One study involved patients who were about to undergo surgery and randomly assigned them to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. The outcome was less anxiety and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the patients who listened to music than the group who took medication, leaving Levitin to conclude "the promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs, and is easier on the body and doesn't have side effects."

Other studies focus specifically on blood pressure and found that listening to music produces significant decreases in both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate of coronary patients. According to research reported at an American Society of Hypertension meeting, listening to as little as 30 minutes of classical, Celtic or raga (such as the classical style of India) music daily may significantly reduce high blood pressure. Slower music helps slow down a person's breathing and heartbeat, which in turn helps relax the body, in everyone from infants to older adults.

Manage Pain
Music is also being used as an antidote for pain. Researchers theorize that in addition to giving patients a feeling of control, music causes endorphins to be released throughout the body which helps reduce both chronic and postoperative pain. An article on eMedExpert.com reports that listening to music can reduce chronic pain from a range of painful conditions, including osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis, by up to 21%. That's a pretty amazing result for simply turning on some background music. Many hospitals are taking notice as well, and are introducing music to patients during childbirth and during and after surgeries.

To further illustrate the benefit of music in regard to pain reduction, consider a 2013 study in which sixty people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disease known for its severe musculoskeletal pain, were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day for four weeks. The group that listened to music experienced a significant reduction in pain in comparison to the non-music group.

Improve Memory and Help Post-Stroke Recovery
It's known that listening to music can help with memory recall. Information learned while particular music is playing can often be remembered by playing those same songs again. This encouraged researchers to learn more about how music may aid in memory loss of stroke patients. One study randomly assigned stroke patients to listen to music, listen to an audio book, or do neither each day. After several rounds of tests, they found that patients in the music group had significant improvements in verbal memory and focus over the other groups.

Music therapy is also being recommended for people with Alzheimer's or dementia in order to help them remember past experiences and emotions. And being able to reconnect with memories seems to help patients improve their moods, stay calmer and become less depressed and agitated. A non-profit organization called MUSIC & MEMORY works to bring personalized music on iPods to the elderly and those with Alzheimer's, dementia and other challenges in order to help them reconnect with memories through music. To learn more or to donate a new or used iPod, please visit musicandmemory.org.

This article has been provided for educational purposes only and is based on the most reliable information available on the date of publication.

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