English playwright William Congreve believed in the healing power of music, writing in 1697 that `Music has charms to soothe the savage breast’ and scientists now concur.
Listening to a repeated 10-second rhythm found in various music compositions – particularly by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi – was found to coincide exactly with changes in blood pressure that reduce the heart rate.
Oxford University cardiologist Professor Peter Sleight, will present his findings from more than 20 years of research at the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester this week.
The researchers played different music styles to people and analysed each person’s cardiovascular response, including blood pressure and pulse measurements.
The responses to either calming or more exciting music were similar between individuals.
Experts said this suggests that music therapy to calm individuals could be relatively simple as it would not need to be tailored to the individual.
Prof Sleight said music was already being used commercially as a calming therapy but there were no real studies into its effectiveness.
“Our research has provided improved understanding as to how music, particularly certain rhythms, can affect your heart and blood vessels.
“But further robust studies are needed, which could reduce scepticism of the real therapeutic role of music.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation welcomed the research.
“We know that stress can play a role in cardiovascular disease so the calming effect of music may have some potential as a therapy.
“However, as Professor Sleight points out, more robust evidence is needed before we see cardiologists prescribing a dose of Taylor Swift or 30 minutes of Vivaldi a day.”