The new study suggests music, combined with standard therapies such as medications, could be a simple, accessible measure that patients can do at home to potentially reduce these symptoms and help prevent subsequent cardiac events.
“Based on our findings, we believe music therapy can help all patients after a heart attack, not only patients with early post-infarction angina. It’s also very easy and inexpensive to implement,” said study lead author Predrag Mitrovic, Professor at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.For the findings, the researchers recruited 350 patients diagnosed with heart attack and early post-infarction angina at a medical centre in Serbia.
Half were randomly assigned to receive standard treatment while half were assigned to regular music sessions in addition to standard treatment.
According to the researchers, patients receiving music therapy first underwent a test to determine which musical genre their body was likely to respond to positively.
Participants listened to nine 30-second samples of music they found soothing, while researchers assessed each participant’s body for automatic, involuntary responses to the music samples based on dilation or narrowing of the pupils.
Patients continued with these daily listening sessions for seven years, documenting their sessions in a log.
At the end of seven years, music therapy was found to be more effective than standard treatment alone in terms of reducing anxiety, pain sensation and pain distress.The patients with music therapy, on average, had anxiety scores one-third lower than those on standard treatment and reported lower angina symptoms by about one-quarter.
These patients also had significantly lower rates of certain heart conditions, including an 18 per cent reduction in the rate of heart failure; 23 per cet lower rate of subsequent heart attack; 20 per cent lower rate of needing coronary artery bypass graft surgery; and 16 per cent lower rate of cardiac death.
According to the researchers, the music may work by helping to counteract the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that drives the “fight-or-flight” response when a person faces a stressful situation.
Because it increases heart rate and blood pressure, a sympathetic response can put added strain on the cardiovascular system, the researchers said.
“Unrelieved anxiety can produce an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity, leading to an increase in cardiac workload,” Mitrovic said.
The research is scheduled to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with World Congress of Cardiology on March 28-30 in the US.