Music As Medicine? 30 Minutes a Day Reduce Anxiety And Pain After Heart Attack


Patients who experience episodes of chest pain shortly after a heart attack, known as early post-infarction angina, have significantly lower levels of anxiety and pain if they listen to music for 30 minutes a day, according to a study presented in Session Annual Scientist of the American College of Cardiology.

An estimated 1 in 9 heart attack survivors experience episodes of chest pain and anxiety within the first 48 hours. The new research suggests that music, combined with standard therapies like drugs, could be a simple and accessible measure that patients can do at home to potentially reduce these symptoms and help prevent subsequent cardiac events.


“There have been very few studies looking at the effects of music on heart conditions. Based on our findings, we believe that music therapy can help all patients after a heart attack, not just patients with post-infarction angina It is also very easy and cheap to implement, “explains Predrag Mitrovic, professor of cardiology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade (Serbia) and lead author of the study.

The researchers recruited 350 patients diagnosed with heart attack and post-infarction angina at a medical center in Serbia. Half were randomized to receive standard treatment, while the other performed regular music sessions in addition to standard treatment. For the majority of patients, treatment included a variety of medications such as aspirin, drugs that prevent clots, beta-blockers, statins, calcium channel blockers, drugs to lower blood pressure, and the drug that reduces angina. ranolazine chest.

Patients receiving music therapy are first tested to determine which music genre their body is likely to respond positively to. They listened to nine 30-second samples of music that they found reassuring, while the researchers evaluated each participant’s body for automatic and involuntary responses to the music samples based on dilation or narrowing of the pupils. The researchers then fine-tuned the selection by working with the patient to determine the optimal tempo and key of the music.

Participants were asked to listen to their music selection for 30 minutes each day when it was convenient for them to sit, ideally while resting with their eyes closed. Patients continued these daily listening sessions for seven years, documenting their sessions in a registry. They returned to the medical center for follow-up evaluations every three months for the first year and annually thereafter.

At the end of seven years, music therapy was found to be more effective than standard treatment alone in reducing anxiety, pain sensation, and pain distress. Patients with music therapy, on average, had anxiety scores one-third lower than those on standard treatment and reported lower angina symptoms in about a quarter.

These patients also had significantly lower rates of certain heart conditions, including an 18 percent reduction in the rate of heart failure; 23 percent lower in the rate of subsequent heart attacks; 20 percent lower coronary artery bypass graft surgery need rate; and a 16 percent lower rate of cardiac death.

The researchers say that music can be useful by helping to counteract the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that drives the response when a person faces a stressful situation. Because heart rate and blood pressure increase, a sympathetic response can put additional pressure on the cardiovascular system.