12 Nov 2008

Music may make the heart beat stronger

12:15 pm on 12 November 2008

Researchers in the United States say songs that make our hearts soar can make them stronger too.

They say they have found that when people listen to their favorite music, their blood vessels dilate in much the same way as when laughing, or taking blood medications.

When blood vessels open more, blood flows more smoothly and is less likely to form the blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers in Baltimore tested 10 healthy, non-smoking men and women, who were told to bring their favourite music.

They spent half an hour listening to the recordings and 30 minutes listening to music they said made them feel anxious while the researchers did ultrasound tests designed to show blood vessel function.

When they listened to their favourite recordings, blood vessel diameter increased 26% on average. Listening to music they disliked - in most cases heavy metal - narrowed blood vessels by 6%.

Michael Miller, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, who led the research team, said he came up with the idea after discovering that laughter caused blood to literally flow more smoothly.

"I asked myself what other things make us feel real good, besides calories from dark chocolate, of course. Music came to mind. It makes me feel real good," he said.

Most of the volunteers chose country music, but Dr Miller said the style is not so important as what pleases each individual.