If your blood pressure is high, do not fret. Just breathe slowly, turn on some quiet, slow rhythmic music and watch your blood pressure tumble drastically.
According to researchers at the American Society of Hypertension's 23rd Annual Scientific Meeting and Exposition (ASH 2008), patients with mild hypertension who listened to just half an hour of classical, Celtic or raga music a day for four weeks experienced significant reductions in 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure (ABP).
Hypertension, a common disorder in which blood pressure remains abnormally high, is responsible for causing at least five million premature deaths each year worldwide.
"Listening to music is soothing and has often been associated with controlling patient-reported pain or anxiety and acutely reducing blood pressure," said study investigator, Prof Pietro A Modesti, Professor of Internal Medicine in the University of Florence in Italy.
"But for the first time, today's results clearly illustrate the impact daily music listening has on ABP. We are excited about the positive implications for both patients and physicians, who can now confidently explore music listening as a safe, effective, non-pharmacological treatment option or a complement to therapy."
At First, the patients wore a device that tracked their blood pressure for 24 hours. Next, they were given a CD of classical, Celtic, or Indian music.
All of the tunes on the CD had similar slow rhythms, Modesti said. The patients were assigned to listen to the CD for 30 minutes per day for a month and to breathe slowly while listening to the music, taking twice as long to exhale as to inhale. At the end of the month, the patients wore the blood pressure monitor again.
The patients' blood pressure improved during the study. When the experiment ended, their average systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) had dropped three points, and their average diastolic blood pressure (the second number in a blood pressure reading) had dropped four points.
For comparison, 20 other patients didn't listen to music or practice slow breathing. Their blood pressure didn't change during the study. It's not clear what mattered more, the music or the slow breathing. "The antihypertensive effects [have] to be considered as the result of the combination of music and breathing exercises," Modesti noted.
The findings were presented in New Orleans at the American Society of Hypertension's annual scientific meeting. Modesti called for further studies to see if the results hold up in the long term. "Sadly, despite the global focus on prevention, it predicted that 56 billion people worldwide will be hypertensive by 2025," said Modesti.
"In light of these devastating statistics, it is reassuring to consider that something as simple, easy and enjoyable as daily music listening combined with slow abdominal breathing, may help people naturally lower their blood pressure."