Cardiologist Sinatra has also seen the power of music at work. "I used to play to music when I did cardiac catheterizations because it calmed my patients. I use music in my office all of the time to help calm my patients — and myself — and I know more physicians who are using music for this reason."
What about music's ability to lower cholesterol? While there's no data to show that music can reduce the ugly, yellow stuff that can go on to cause arterial damage and heart disease, Sinatra believes that any time you reduce stress, you reduce or eliminate your risk factors for heart disease — the leading killer of both men and women.
Interestingly, music also can offset a phenomenon known as the "white coat syndrome," whereby blood pressure rises when a patients visits his doctor, even if it's for a routine checkup.
A Higher Healing Plane
How does music cause such positive, physical changes? Most scores of classical music, for example, range between 60 beats per minute and 140 beats per minute, which stimulates the rhythm of the heart beat, thereby inducing relaxation and causing tranquility in the body, says Sinatra. What's more, he adds, "some researchers believe that such scores can take you back to the safety of the womb if you have a good experience inutero — the mother was kind to you, didn't have anger about you and this nice energy was delivered to the fetus. It's all unconscious, of course, and only a hypothesis at that."
Lastly, music doesn't involve a logical thought process, says Sinatra. When listening to music, you use your "right brain," which thinks in terms of images. "It's the creative and imaginative place in your mind that is responsible for dreams and expressive forms of art like music and painting. I'm convinced that the right brain should be exercised to truly allow healing to take place," he says.
The Pet Factor
"Music can also be a very nurturing influence for our pets," adds Sinatra. "There's some research to show petting a dog lowers blood pressure. If you put on soft music, your pets will literally wallow at your fee. They calm down. When I put music on my three dogs know I'm staying home. I know some people who play music when they leave the house because they want their pets to be entertained while they're gone."
Sinatra encourages his patients (and their pets) to listen to the following pieces of classical and baroque music to help keep their blood pressure in check, their heart disease-free and their lives long-lived:
- Bach — Brandenberg Concerto #4, 2nd movement
- Bach — Orchestral Suite #2, Sarabande
- Gustav Holst — The Planets: "Venus"
- Ravel — Mother Goose Suite, 1st movement