Relaxing to a soothing Mozart symphony can lower the blood pressure as much as cutting salt from the diet or exercising, a new study has shown.
But for people concerned about their heart, it might be wise to stay clear of ABBA, which has no impact at all.
Scientists in Germany played Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in g minor, dances by Johann Strauss and songs by ABBA to 60 volunteers, monitoring their blood pressure before and after the experiment.
They found that Mozart lowered systolic blood pressure (the pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats) by 4.7 mm Hg, Strauss 3.7 mm Hg but the Swedish pop group made no significant difference.
Diastolic blood pressure (when the heart rests between beats) also fell by 2.1 mm Hg for Mozart and 2.9 mm Hg for Strauss.
Previous studies have found that aerobic exercise such as cycling, running or brisk walking had a similar impact on lowering blood pressure. Reducing salt by 6 gm per day brings systolic blood pressure down by between 7 and 4 mm Hg.
“It has been known for centuries that music has an effect on human beings. In antiquity, music was used to improve performance in athletes during the Olympic Games,” said lead author Hans-Joachim Trappe, of Ruhr University, Germany.
“In our study, listening to classical music resulted in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. These drops in blood pressure were clearly expressed for the music of Mozart and Strauss.
“The music of ABBA did not show any or only very small effects on blood pressure and heart rate. This may be due to emotional factors, but on the other hand the use of spoken words may have a negative role.”
The researchers concluded that to be of benefit, music must be in a pleasant key, of skilful composition, have a consistent volume and rhythm, devoid of rousing sequences, have no lyrics, and have achieved a certain degree of fame and popularity.