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11th June 2015

Listen to Verdi to lower blood pressure, suggests research by Professor Peter Sleight

Research by Professor Peter Sleight, Emeritus Fellow in Cardiovascular Medicine, suggests people should listen to Verdi to lower their blood pressure.

According to new research by Professor Sleight, slow music with a 10-second repetitive cycle has a noticeable calming effect on listeners because it matches the body’s natural 10-second waves of blood-pressure control. Verdi’s work is rich with such cycles, suggesting to Professor Sleight that the composer “seemed to know instinctively about this when he composed his 10-second arias.”

Studies carried out on 12 musically trained volunteers and 12 untrained individuals demonstrated that certain kinds of slow music were particularly good at helping to control blood pressure – in contrast to jazz, pop or fast classical compositions.

“Music is already being used commercially as a calming therapy but this has happened independent of controlled studies into its effectiveness,” Professor Sleight said.

“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 [about] the real therapeutic role of music.”

Other works that have the same rhythmic pattern include the slow movements of Ludwig Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the arias in Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot.

It is not just music that has a calming influence on blood pressure. Professor Sleight found that the prayer Ave Maria, when spoken in Latin, also has a 10-second rhythm when it is read out 50 times, as it is in some Catholic services in Italy.

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