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Classical music's calming powers

Classical music's calming powers

High blood pressure? It's time to tune into some classical music, says new research.

Cardiologists at Oxford University have found that the tempo of classical orchestral pieces are in sync with the body's own rhythm and worked to lower listeners' blood pressure. But if you're a fan of something a little more upbeat beware, as this type of music can actually increase pulse and blood pressure.

A group of participants were played different music styles, and their cardiovascular response, including blood pressure and pulse, were examined.

Music from Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Indian sitar music were effective at lowering blood pressure, which researchers say could prove a powerful therapeutic tool.

More up-tempo pieces did not have the same impact.

Lead author Professor Peter Sleight presented the findings at the British Cardiovascular Society, explaining that blood pressure in humans rises and falls roughly every ten seconds. He noted that composers such as Verdi were able to replicate this in their music.

"Verdi may well have been a physiologist – he hit on this ten-second rhythm in blood pressure and you can see it in his music. You also see it in the Ave Maria – which any Catholic could recite by heart," Professor Sleight said.

"Music is already being used commercially as a calming therapy but this has happened independent of controlled 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."

A separate study also recently found that listening to music improved both short-term and long-term memory in people with dementia.

Helen Odell-Miller, professor of music therapy at Anglia Ruskin University, found that many dementia patients who had heard a live performance by a singer then listened to the artist's songs and other pieces on MP3 players were able to recall where they were, the time of day and people's names. Memory of recent events was also boosted.

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