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Why listening to music is good for your health

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We all know that music has a powerful effect on our emotions. Songs like Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" can reduce us to tears while upbeat music such as this tune can lift our spirits, and music like that from the movie "Jaws" builds suspense. But music can have considerable health benefits as outlined in the above video.

People who listen to music for 20 to 30 minutes a day have lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate than those who don't listen to music, so indicate studies from medical facilities in Massachusetts and in Hong Kong. Dr Luciano Bernardi with Pavia University, Italy, says research shows that music is linked to unconscious physiological responses. Music truly does seem to reach inside and become a part of us. Scientists have found that heart rhythms and respiration tend to synchronize with music, particularly pieces that contain crescendos or gradual increases in volume. Interestingly, some restaurants have figured out that people also eat according to the speed of music they're listening to.

A research team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore found that when study participants listened to what they perceived as joyful music, their blood vessels dilated, increasing blood flow but when they listened to music that they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, reducing blood flow.

Music calms

One study indicated that music was more effective than drugs for reducing anxiety among pre-surgery patients. Shelter dogs calm down and bark less when soft music is played. Patients in doctors' and dentists' offices relax more when they listen to soft music in the waiting room or during a procedure. Interestingly, one study revealed that grunge music led to significant increases in hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue. even in people who said they liked it. In another study, college students reported that pop, rock, oldies, and classical music helped them feel happier and more optimistic, relaxed, and calm.

Music strengthens immune system

High levels of the stress-related hormone, cortisol, can weaken the immune system but listening to music can decrease those levels of cortisol, by increasing an antibody, immunogloblin A, which strengthens the immune system. Music also increases our natural killer cells which protect the body against invading germs.

Music effective against pain

Music can also be effective against pain by causing the body to release natural pain killers called endorphins. A study led by Franz Wendtner, a clinical psychologist in Austria, revealed that patients with pain after back surgery who listened to music in addition to standard treatment experienced more relief than the patients receiving only standard treatment.

Music plays a role in healing

A study of stroke patients in Finland showed that those listening to music for two hours a day had greater improvements in verbal memory and attention than patients who didn't listen to music. A German study revealed that music therapy improves motor skills in stroke patients. Additionally, some patients who have lost the ability to speak after an injury to the brain’s speech centers are still able to sing. Country singer, Mel Tillis, developed a stutter during childhood as a result of malaria yet he sang without a stutter. A clinical trial from Harvard Medical School suggests that melodic intonation therapy, a type of singing therapy, somehow remolds the brain. Music therapy and singing facilitated the recovery of speech in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she suffered a gunshot wound to the head in 2011.

Norwegian researchers found that two-thirds of patients with post traumatic amnesia who listened to music showed better orientation and fewer signs of anxiety, than those who didn't listen to music. Other research indicates that playing music in the neonatal intensive care unit improves the health of premature babies with infections or respiratory issues. And nursing home residents who listen to music reportedly eat and sleep better, get along better, and need less medication.

Music energizes, increases endurance

According to another study from America'a Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, a group of men riding bicycles each day were able to ride 11% further on the days that they listened to music while riding.

Music enhances memory, learning, productivity

Music tends to engage both the left side and the right side of the brain at the same time which enhances retention of information. A good example of this is kids learning the alphabet by singing the ABC song.

According to a report in the journal Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology, a person's ability to recognize visual images, including letters and numbers, is faster when either rock or classical music is playing in the background. Students behave better and score better on reading skills, mathematical abilities, and spatial-temporal reasoning when relaxing music is played in the classroom. Scientists have also discovered that hens are more satisfied and lay more eggs when they listen to music. It has even been noted that plants grow better to music.

Music is a form of expression that communicates with our soul to say what can't be said with words, therefore we all have our own personal favorites. Currently my favorites are anything played by an exceptionally talented German piano player, Luca Sestak. When I want to feel happy and lighthearted, I may choose to listen to an uplifting tune. If I need something to empower my workouts, I'll select a rocking boogie with a driving beat. But when I want to relax I choose something soothing.

Suggested viewing:

Luca Sestak, 2013

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Exposure to violence changes brain activity in children
Volunteering offers significant health benefits

Playing a musical instrument can make you and your kids smarter

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