Music Therapy May Reduce Chest Pains After Heart Attacks 

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
July 1, 2020
Music Therapy May Reduce Chest Pains After Heart Attacks 

After having a heart attack, it’s common to make lifestyle changes. Get more exercise. Give up certain foods. Throw away the cigarettes. Another step that may help especially if you’re experiencing chest pains following a heart attack – also known as early post-infarction angina: Listen to more music. 

Listening to 30 minutes of music a day can reduce pain and anxiety in post-infarction angina patients, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session Together with World Congress of Cardiology. 

Every 40 seconds someone has a heart attack in the U.S. — about 805,000 heart attacks each year. The good news is most people survive heart attacks. But nearly 1 in 9 heart attack survivors continue experiencing bouts of chest pain and anxiety after the event. 

Cases of early post-infarction angina are typically treated with medications such as nitrates, aspirin, blood thinners, beta blockers, statins, calcium channel blockers, blood pressure drugs and angina reducing medication. However, cardiology researchers from University of Belgrade School of Medicine combined listening to music with standard treatment and found positive outcomes. 

Researchers recruited 350 heart attack patients with early post-infarction angina. Half of the participants received standard treatment, while the other half listened to music sessions in addition to standard treatment.

Patients in the music therapy group were tested to find which music genre they found soothing and produced the most positive results within their body. They were asked to listen to their selected music genre for 30 minutes each day whenever it was convenient for them to sit, resting with their eyes closed and keep a log. Daily music therapy sessions continued for seven years. Patients received follow up medical assessments every three months for the first years and annually thereafter.

At the end of seven years, researchers relied on participant logs and medical assessments to compare the standard treatment and music therapy groups and found the average music therapy study participant had:

  • 33 percent less anxiety
  • 25 percent less angina
  • 18 percent reduction in heart failure
  • 23 percent lower subsequent heart attack rate
  • 20 percent lower need of coronary artery bypass graft surgery
  • 16 percent lower cardiac death rate

Researchers believe music therapy works by easing the sympathetic nervous system – the part of the nervous systems which controls the fight-or-flight syndrome. When we experience stress, it raises our blood pressure, straining the cardiovascular system and increasing cardiac workload. Researchers also think music therapy may be able to help all heart conditions — not just early post-infarction angina — and plan to continuing studying the effects music therapy has on different age groups and heart health-related conditions such as diabetes.

“Stress causes havoc on our health and can raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “I’m not surprised researchers found a connection between music, stress and angina. Some hospitals already use music therapy to relax patients. And other studies have documented the value of music therapy and cardiovascular health.”

Temple University found listening to music eased stress, heart rate and blood pressure among coronary heart disease patients, according to a study included in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Results from this correlation study that involved data from 23 studies and 1,461 participants also suggested that listening to music provided by healthcare professionals improved mood. 

“The real take home message of this study is that receptive music therapy – in which you listen to music, as opposed to expressing yourself through music – is an effective method of stress management,” Kaminetsky says. “Make a point to spend 30 minutes each day relaxing, listening to about 30 minutes of relaxing music.”

Whether or not you’re a heart patient, talk to your doctor about a heart healthy lifestyle that includes stress management. If you need a physician, consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you develop a personalized wellness program that includes heart health. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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