Music Has An Unexpected Effect On Your Heart

Music is one of life's greatest pleasures. It can get you moving, help you connect with others, and definitely help you kill time when the clock is ticking too slowly. But music is far more than just an exercise playlist and a fun pastime — it has a wide range of health benefits too, especially for the heart.

Through the use of music therapy, music has already been proven to help restore both cognitive and motor functionality amongst stroke survivors. In a study published in Brain, results found that listening to music stimulated positive, progressive changes in the areas of the brain concerned with verbal memory, focus, and attention. Now, new research from Harvard Health suggests that these same methodologies and brain stimulations can prove impactful to heart health as well. Regular enjoyment of music can help regulate both heart rhythm and blood pressure, improve blood vessel functionality, and improve cardiac output. These are functions that are crucial to overall heart health, making music an unexpected asset to the heart's well-being.

How it works

Sound processing, the central functionality of the auditory system, begins in the brainstem. According to Cleveland Clinic, the brainstem is a small, stalklike part of the brain that connects the brain to the spinal cord and is responsible for carrying out several different functions in the human body. These functions consist of balance, blood pressure, hearing, and a number of functions within the respiratory system as well, particularly breathing and heart rhythm regulation.

The connection between the brainstem, the auditory system, and the respiratory system is what curates the connection between music and the heart. When listening to music, the brainstem's auditory pathways are activated, and these pathways can then decode and integrate sound, causing a ripple effect on other parts of the body, such as the respiratory system (via The Oxford Handbook of the Auditory Brainstem). When the brainstem is stimulated and releases signals to the respiratory system as a response, these signals can then produce improved blood vessel functionality, regulated blood pressure, and regulated heart rhythm. This improves the overall health of the heart, thus making regular music listening an incredible habit to adopt.

Other benefits

There are several additional benefits to regular music listening! According to Brain, Stroke survivors who listened to just one hour of music a day saw significant improvements in their rehabilitation journeys and also made much more rapid progress in their recoveries than their counterparts who utilized other forms of therapy.

According to a study published in PNAS, listening to and creating music has also been proven to aid in the release of a brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine, often dubbed the "happy hormone," is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for creating feelings of joy, happiness, motivation, and reward (via Cleveland Clinic). PNAS suggests that when dopamine is released, it activates the cardiac muscles in the heart, causing them to contract, and ultimately increases the heart rate, which results in improved cardiac output as well. The study also asserts that improved cardiac output can then aid in one's exercise regimen, allowing one to exercise for longer periods of time and enjoy a shorter recovery time afterward. Ultimately, dopamine boosts are great for the heart, and music is an easy, fun way to snag a quick dopamine boost. The journey to a healthier and happier heart is merely a pair of headphones away!