Healing Power of Music

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Healing Power of Music

By | August 2012
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If you didn't catch the white coat and the stethoscope, you might take Dr. Mike Miller for a middle-aged rocker, roaming the halls of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. For years, Miller, a research cardiologist, has been studying the effects of happiness -- or things that make people happy -- on our hearts. He began his research with laughter, and found watching funny movies and laughing at them could actually open up blood vessels, allowing blood to circulate more freely.

Miller thought, if laughter can do that, why not music? So, he tested the effects of music on the cardiovascular system. "Turns out music may be one of the best de-stressors -- either by playing or even listening to music," said Miller. The setup was basically the same as with the laughter study: Using high-tech imaging, Miller measured blood vessel size as people listened to music. The results did not surprise Miller. "The inner lining of the blood vessel relaxed, opened up and produced chemicals that are protective to the heart," he said. But when participants listened to music they didn't particularly enjoy, Miller said, "the vessels actually began to close up." That's exactly what tension -- or stress -- does.

Long-term stress can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. Over time, it can cause blood vessels to stiffen and become rigid, constricting blood flow. As people get older, arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, becomes a problem. Constricted vessels can cause blood pressure to rise and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Stress can also suppress the immune system, contribute to infertility and impotence, speed the aging process and even rewire the brain, leaving people more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. But music can counter the effects of stress. "It gives us an overall feeling of good, well-being -- a sense of euphoria in some cases," Miller said. A recent study out of Stanford University found elderly patients who were...
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