Harvard Heart Letter

Listening to your favorite music may relax your arteries

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, as the 17th-century poet William Congreve wrote. In fact, music might soothe your heart by relaxing your arteries, a small study hints.

Researchers measured arterial stiffness in 20 healthy young adults before and after they listened to 30 minutes of classical music, rock music, or nothing (as a control). They used a technique called carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV). This measures the time it takes for the pulse to travel to the carotid artery in the neck versus the femoral artery in the leg. Longer pulse times suggest stiffer arteries, which translates to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems. Higher "wave reflections" (another measure of artery health) are also linked to heart disease risk.

After listening to classical or rock music, the volunteers' PWV values dropped. Their wave reflection values also fell—even more so when participants listened to their favorite music (that is, the improvements were greater when classical aficionados listened to classical music than when they listened to rock, and vice versa).

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