Listening to music stimulates many different parts of your brain that tap straight into your emotions. Discordant, jarring music can set your teeth on edge and cause your blood pressure to soar. In contrast, soothing music can help you relax, reduce anxiety and stress to bring your blood pressure down.
In India, a type of music known as Ragas is traditionally used to lower blood pressure as its rhythm is said to have a relaxing effect on the autonomic nervous system which is involved in blood pressure control.
Researchers from the University of Florence have also reported that listening to a CD of slow, rhythmic music can lower blood pressure. A group of people with hypertension, and who were taking antihypertensive medication, were asked to listen to Indian raga, Classical or Celtic music for thirty minutes a day while also practicing slow, controlled breathing exercises. Within one month, their blood pressures improved significantly, with a fall in systolic blood pressure of 3.2 mmHg after one week, and 4.4 mmHg after four weeks. A similar group who did not listen to music or do breathing exercises did not show any significant blood pressure changes.
You can listen to an example of rhythmic, Indian raga flute music in the clip below.
If this is not to your taste, other research involving 20 volunteers has shown that listening to 30 minutes of classical music or rock music relaxed the arteries enough to decrease the stiffness of the aorta (the largest blood vessel in the body) compared to a control group who listened to a blank tape. The effect lasted for as long as the music was listened to. And, in Turkey, listening to classical music for 25 minutes was shown to lower systolic blood pressure by 13 mmHg compared to a 6.5 mmHg for ta similar group who rested without listening to music.
In another study, taking part in rhythmic African drumming was shown to reduce anxiety scores and lower systolic blood pressure and have effects on the circulation that were as effective as low to moderate intensity exercise. Singing can also bring down a severely elevated blood pressure just before a surgical operation for total knee replacement, even when drug treatment had failed.
The secret seems to be to listen to music that you personally like and find relaxing.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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