A report in the 22 June online issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, provides more evidence of music's potential to help the rehabilitation of stroke and cardiac patients. The reported study was performed in Italy in 24 patients listening via headphone to five assorted tracks of classical music and simultaneously monitored by ECG, and for blood flow and respiration. While earlier studies - including one from the same research group - have shown that changes in blood pressure and heart rate seem to keep time with the pace of music, this study found that every crescendo led to increased narrowing of blood vessels under the skin, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and increased respiration amplitude. The extent of the effect was proportional to the change in music profile. During the silent pause, the changes decreased. "The profile of music (crescendo or decrescendo) is continuously tracked by the cardiovascular and respiratory systems," said investigator Luciano Bernardi. Commenting on the study for the European Society of Cardiology, Professor Joep Perk from Oskarshamn District Hospital in Sweden said: "This is an interesting study and one of several which have considered the effect of music on cardiac rehabilitation. But like many of these studies this was a very small study, was limited to younger patients and only investigated the effect of classical music. I don't think we can yet say the results represent strong evidence-based medicine."

"But there is good evidence that music - like other relaxation therapies - can help our ability to deal with stress, and the link between stress and cardiovascular health is strong. So it may be that music presents a mental training mechanism by which we deal with stress - which may be of benefit in everyday life as well as in cardiac rehabilitation. It was interesting in this study that heart rate and blood pressure varied in synchrony with the pace of the music, suggesting a direct link. We will need the evidence of stronger randomised trials before we can say that music therapy has unequivocal benefits in cardiac rehabilitation, but that's not say that it does not help."

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC):
The ESC represents nearly 53,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean. Its mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.

The ESC achieves this through a variety of scientific and educational activities including the coordination of: clinical practice guidelines, education courses and initiatives, pan-European surveys on specific disease areas and the ESC Annual Congress, the largest medical meeting in Europe. The ESC also works closely with the European Commission and WHO to improve health policy in the EU.

The ESC comprises 3 Councils, 5 Associations, 19 Working Groups, 50 National Cardiac Societies and an ESC Fellowship Community (Fellow, FESC; Nurse Fellow, NFESC). For more information on ESC Initiatives, Congresses and Constituent Bodies see www.escardio.org.

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