The type of music you listen to can directly affect your general mood. But is listening to Mozart really the secret to lowering blood pressure?
When lab results indicate high blood pressure, our doctors usually suggest changing our daily habits. They may prescribe subtracting certain foods from our diet and adding regular exercise. But what if your doctor gave you a prescription for Mozart?
We know listening to Mozart is good for the soul. But can listening to Mozart reduce your blood pressure? Some research studies indicate that it can.
Let’s dive into a few scientific studies connecting music with heart health and find what makes Mozart’s music medicinal.
Does listening to Mozart lower your blood pressure?
When we relax, our cortisol level drops and decreases our blood pressure. But what does this have to do with Mozart?
One study published in the Deutsches Arzteblatt International journal, The Cardiovascular Effect of Musical Genres, found that Mozart may be especially effective in reducing blood pressure.
Before you decide to skip your medication and put Mozart on your headphones, let’s first take a deeper look at the study.
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT YOUR FAMILY PHYSICIAN BEFORE MODIFYING YOUR MEDICATION. (But throwing on some classical tunes won’t kill you.)
What does The Cardiovascular Effect of Musical Genres prove?
The Cardiovascular Effect of Musical Genres was a study involving 120 healthy participants. Twenty listened to W. A. Mozart, twenty to J. Strauss Jr., and twenty to the Swedish pop band, ABBA. Each group listened to music for 25 minutes in a quiet atmosphere while reclining on a bed. The 60 other participants did not listen to any music as they rested quietly.
Participants showed lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels when listening to Mozart. Those listening to Strauss saw positive effects. Listening to ABBA showed little change in blood pressure levels. However, listening to music showed a more significant impact on relaxation than complete silence.
The theory concludes that Mozart has the greatest effect on reducing blood pressure. So, what is the magic of Mozart’s music?
What’s so special about Mozart’s music?
Mozart has been the subject of many scientific studies. These studies show that listening to Mozart can temporarily improve coordination, brain function, behavior, relaxation, and blood pressure.
So what sets Mozart’s music apart?
The Deutsches Arzteblatt International journal used Mozart’s piece, Symphony No 40 in G minor (KV 550), in their study. This symphony is written in a minor key and includes wind instruments, including flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and also strings in its composition.
When comparing Mozart’s music next to other pieces, these are the musical elements that set his composition apart:
A lot of periodicity and repetition
As you listen to Mozart, many musical phrases repeat or echo later in the piece. This repetition enables you to predict what comes next. Predictability has a calming effect on the brain–no sudden surprises disrupt your peaceful world.
A quiet sound and steady dynamics
Many of Mozart’s pieces have the Italian dynamic p symbol at the beginning of the movement. The p symbol is an abbreviation for the word piano. In English, we know this word as a musical instrument. However, in Italian, the dynamic term piano means to play a piece softly.
Unlike pieces by Beethoven and other composers, Mozart’s compositions usually go easy on crescendos and maintain low-key dynamics throughout a piece. This is less exciting for the brain and induces calm feelings.
A slow tempo and legato phrases
Mozart’s pieces often incorporate a slow tempo of about 60 BPM and legato phrases. These slow-paced rhythms allow the brain to synchronize with the beat of the music. This causes alpha brainwaves which happen when we feel relaxed but are still awake.
Repetition, quiet sounds, and slow tempos are some musical elements that Mozart incorporates into his pieces. These seem to have a calming effect on the brain and positively affect the cardiocirculatory system.
But is Mozart the only music that has this effect?
Music and the heart.
A study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session shows that heart attack patients have less chest pain and anxiety after listening to music for at least 30 minutes a day.
These participants chose relaxing music and listened to it regularly for seven years. Researchers found that patients who combined this music therapy with standard treatment in regular checkups had positive results. These participants showed lower anxiety and pain levels than those who relied on treatment alone.
Many researchers believe that music’s effect on the heart is not so much connected to a specific composer but instead to the musical elements.
For example, studies show that some of these elements in music have a positive effect on listeners:
- Periodicity (or repetition of musical phrases throughout a piece)
- A catchy melody
- A pleasant key signature
- Low variation in volume, rhythm, and harmony
- No lyrics
- A slow-paced rhythm of about 60 beats per minute
As you can see, many of these elements are the same as those found in Mozart’s pieces.
Besides Mozart and other classical pieces, studies show that listening to Native American music, Celtic music, easy listening, light jazz, stringed instruments, flutes, drums, and sounds from nature can also reduce stress and have a positive effect on the brain.
What musical elements are not relaxing?
While Mozart seemed to positively affect listeners, in the Deutsches Arzteblatt International study, ABBA seemed to show little or no effect on blood pressure. So, what makes some types of music more relaxing than others?
Studies indicate that the emotional response to certain types of music can influence how relaxed listeners feel.
Another factor could be that the brain processes lyrics in a different brain region than instrumental music. Or, the use of electronic sounds may be more jarring than other types of instruments.
The final verdict.
Mozart is a legendary musical genius that we’ll never forget. His pieces are unique, complex, and beautifully put together. More significantly, some of the musical elements Mozart incorporates into his pieces may help to reduce blood pressure and stress levels.
However, listening to Mozart isn’t the only music that can help you unwind. There are many other pieces and genres out there. Many include some of the same musical elements as Mozart. Instrumental pieces with slow tempos, smooth rhythms, repetition, and pleasant sounds positively affect mood, relaxation, and, as a byproduct, blood pressure levels.
Most of all, experts stress that you should listen to music you find relaxing. While we can narrow down the relaxing type of music for most, everyone has slightly different tastes when it comes to music. For example, thunder and rain sounds are relaxing for many people. Still, others may find it annoying.
There are plenty of musical genres you can choose from to de-stress. You can try out different styles of music and see what works for you.
Listening to Mozart is never a bad idea. However, if you have symptoms of high blood pressure, don’t rely on music to solve your problems. Get advice from a doctor.