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This will be music to your ears


As you travel the roads, do you pass the time listening to talk radio? Sure, social issues are important, but why not tune your radio to a music station sometimes instead?

Whether you prefer country, rock or classical, listening to the music you enjoy is good for you. Music is therapeutic; it’s an integral part of many different types of therapies. So, why not commit some time each day on the road to catch some tunes and enjoy music’s many benefits?

Did you know that music can help you physically? Listening to music improves heart rate and blood pressure. According to a study in Italy, listening to classical, Celtic, or Indian music while consciously breathing slowly for 30 minutes a day dropped the listeners’ systolic blood pressure by four points, which is the same improvement you would get by cutting back your salt intake. Just 30 minutes of music every day could significantly reduce high blood pressure.

Listening to joyful music also contributes to healthy blood vessels and particularly improves your endothelial cells’ (the cells lining your circulatory system) ability to function properly, allowing your blood vessels to dilate and constrict appropriately.

In a recent study, joyful music was seen to increase the flow-mediated dilation (FMD) in the listener’s brachial artery by 26% – a result usually only seen with aerobic exercise or statin therapy.

Conversely, this same study showed that listening to anxiety-triggering music negatively impacted blood vessels, decreasing the FMD by 6%.

If you have pain, listening to music may help lessen its severity. According to a study from the University of Utah, focusing on a melody can blunt even sharp pain.

In this study where volunteers listened to music tapes while receiving brief electric shocks, people listening to music reported a much lower the level of pain when shocked than people not listening to music.

Music is more than just a distraction. It changes how your brain responds to pain stimulus by reducing activity in the amygdale – an area of the brain that regulates negative emotions.

At the same time, music triggers the neural systems that stimulate pleasure, releasing endorphins to counteract the feeling of pain. Music may even reduce your level chronic pain by up to 21% for a variety of painful conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and disc problems.

As well, scientists have seen that listening to music that creates a positive and profound emotional experience can help your body maintain its level of good health.

Music improves your immune function by triggering your body to secrete immune-boosting hormones to help fight sickness and disease.

Music can also improve your physical performance.

Music that motivates you can take the drudgery out of any activity, making it seem more like recreation and less like work.

Because music releases muscle tension, it improves body coordination and movement, improves mental awareness, and enhances the ability to physiologically relax.

Lively music can boost your energy level and effectively eliminate fatigue caused by monotonous work or exercise-induced fatigue, improving productivity. Listening to upbeat music can be a great way to find some extra energy to help you think clearly and perform better in high-pressure situations.

Music is good for your brain, too. According to a report in the journal Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology, people are able to more quickly recognize visual images, such as letters and numbers when either rock or classical music is playing in the background. Music has the power to enhance some types of higher brain function, such as reading and literacy skills, spatial-temporal reasoning, math abilities, and emotional intelligence.

Music can be a great mood-booster, too. Music is relaxing and has been found to be as effective as massage for reducing tension.

According to Stanford University, music with a slow beat encourages the slow brainwaves that are associated with relaxed or meditative states.

Slow music can also lower the stress hormone, cortisol – a hormone that is also responsible for weakening your immune system, increasing your risk of heart disease, interfering with your learning and memory, lowering your bone density, and increasing your blood pressure.

For some people, music can also trigger other biochemical stress effects which can help reduce the symptoms of migraines, PMS and/or depression. Just a half-hour of relaxing music each day could noticeably impact your mood and overall health.

Because it is relaxing, music is an effective, drug-free method for reducing sleep issues. Studies show that listening to 45 minutes of classical music before bed can help lull you to sleep and improve your general quality of sleep. It promotes better sleep patterns by relaxing muscles, reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, and decreasing anxiety, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate.

So, the next time you get into your rig, turn your radio on and enjoy some tunes – stay healthier for just a song.

***

Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at karen_bowen@yahoo.com.


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