The power of music to integrate and cure. . . is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication. – Oliver Sacks “Awakenings”
Music as a healing force goes back several centuries. Apollo was worshipped by the Greeks as the god of both music and medicine. Healing and sound were considered a highly developed sacred science in the Egyptian and Greek education systems. Soon after World War I and World War II, community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, serenaded veterans, suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars. The medical profession is now embracing the value of music in the healing or palliative care of a wide variety of patients: the chronically or terminally ill, the disabled, the neurologically impaired, and the mentally challenged. Music therapy programs are popping up in hospitals and treatment centers around the country.
Heart disease is the primary cause of death in the United States. Those who suffer from heart disease either die prematurely or suffer a marked decrease in quality of life. Increasing evidence is proving that music is soothing for the heart. Marconato and colleagues reported in the Arq Bras Cardiol. in 2001, decreased stress levels and increased personal satisfaction, higher consumption of fiber-rich food, lower cholesterol intake, and a better perspective on life in people on receptive music therapy . White in the American Journal of Critical Care in 1999 showed that in patients with an acute heart attack, music therapy was associated with reductions in heart rate, respiratory rate, and myocardial oxygen demand. Guzzetta went further and reported in Heart Lung in 1989, that the incidence of cardiac complications was found to be lower in patients admitted to the coronary care unit with a presumptive diagnosis of heart attack, if they were subjected to music and relaxation therapy. Thorgaard and associates reported in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing in 2004 that specially selected music had a positive effect on the well being of patients and their opinion on the sound environment during invasive cardiac procedures. Other studies have demonstrated health benefits of music during and after cardiac surgery.
Music has other benefits too. “Simply put, music can heal people.” — Senator Harry Reid, Nevada. As a therapeutic modality, music interventions are able to promote wellness, manage stress, combat depression, alleviate pain, relax or sedate, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation. Therapeutic music enhances an individual’s self-awareness and spiritual growth, brightens their perspective on life and this results in increasing his or her quality of life
German author, Johann G. Seume expressed, “Music is the key to the female heart.” Love is intimately connected to music. Henry Ward Beecher (1813-87), American clergyman sang, “Of all the music that reaches farthest into heaven, it is the beating of a loving heart.” Music helps conquer loneliness. Lawrence Pat Conroy, said,” Without music, life is a journey through a desert.” Music can help combat depression and anxiety. George Eliot (1819-80), British writer announced, “There is no feeling, except the extremes of fear and grief, that does not find relief in music.” Music has its spiritual benefits too. Every religion has incorporated music in its fabric. Basketball coach, Red Auerbach, who was elected to the basketball hall of fame in 1969, preached, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Music helps laborers lessen their burden and helps their time pass faster. It also acts as an uniting force in all aspects of life.
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Musical therapist and teacher , Pastor Hal A. Lingerman, said, “Just as certain selections of music will nourish your physical body and your emotional layer, so other musical works will bring greater health to your mind.” And as he correctly remarked, not all music is created equal. Several studies have shown that relaxing music (Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart) results in a significant reduction of heart rate and also a significant reduction of heart rate variability, both benefitting the heart. The human heart rate tends to synchronize with the tempo of the music. Fast tempos drive up heartbeats, breathing and blood pressure, and may be detrimental to the cardiovascular system. Enjoy slower tempo music and relax – and as the American writer, Henry Miller penned, “Music is a beautiful opiate, if you don’t take it too seriously.”
Guitarist Frank Zappa, winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 said, “Remember, information is not knowledge; knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is not truth; truth is not beauty; beauty is not love; love is not music; music is the best.” Integrate music into your daily life regimen. It will enhance your life. And more importantly, it may help soothe and even heal your heart. So do not be surprised if your doctor says, “Listen to two slow classical tunes and call me in the morning.”
Dr. Shashi K. Agarwal is a Board Certified Internist and Cardiologist with a private practice in New York City and New Jersey. He is also a diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.