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Tuesday 22nd May 2018

Opera 'good for the heart'

23rd June 2009

Romantic and emotional music like Verdi's operatic arias can have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, Italian research has found.


Operatic music like Nessun Dorma, from Puccini's Turandot, can slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure, according to a new report published in the journal Circulation.

Puccini and Verdi are full of crescendos and diminuendos, and have the best effect on the body, with a possible application in rehabilitation for stroke victims.

Music is already used as an alternative therapy at hospital bedsides.

Faster tempos increase breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, while a more leisurely pace has the opposite effect, according to the research team from Pavia University.

Lead researcher Luciano Bernardi said Music induced continuous, dynamic, and largely predictable changes in the cardiovascular system.

In the study, 24 healthy volunteers were hooked up to monitoring equipment and asked to listen to five random tracks of classical music.

Tracks included Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, an aria from Puccini's Turandot, Bach's cantata No 169, Va Pensiero from Nabucco and Libiam Nei Lieti Calici from La Traviata.

They found that gradual volume increases, or crescendo, stimulated the heart and narrowed subcutaneous blood vessels, pumping up blood pressure, breathing and heart rates.

Diminishing decibels caused slower breathing and relaxation.

Silence was also used as part of the testing procedure. The team found that the best effects on heart and circulation appeared to be from music which alternated between fast and slow, loud and quiet.

In Verdi's arias, the musical phrases were around 10 seconds long, appearing to synchonise with the body's natural cardiovascular rhythms.

Experts said the power of music was still largely unknown and underestimated.

The findings had implications for the use of music in rehabilitative medicine.

UK-based Music in Hospitals, a charity that takes live musical performances to hospitals, hospices and care and residential homes, said music had provided "enormous benefits" to people who had suffered strokes or heart attacks.

Stroke patients were often reported to be able to move in time to music, although they had apparently been unable to move beforehand, spokeswoman Diana Greenman said.

Not all people appreciated the same music, however, Greenman added, and the performances needed to be tailored to the individual.

A Stroke Association spokesman said positive emotion had been shown already to be beneficial to stroke victims, and aid their recovery.

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