TL;DR: Hypertension, a global health issue, needs more than just medication. While pills are commonly used for treatment, our bodies can easily develop resistance, requiring increased dosages or additional drugs. Enter non-drug alternatives like music therapy that can help with blood pressure control. In this article, I talk about the results of a study where they discovered that combining music therapy with medication lowered heart rate and blood pressure, while also decreasing anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. Music therapy offers a cost-effective and accessible approach to hypertension management. It is an intriguing avenue worth considering.
A staggering 1.3 billion adults live with hypertension worldwide, a condition that affects the blood vessels and can cause all sorts of long-term complications like stroke, kidney disease, heart failure, and even blindness. (1) Talk about a serious health issue! Despite all the different kinds of pills one can pop for hypertension, only a meager 21% of the patients actually have their blood pressure under control. (2) While we are swimming in meds, hoping they can keep our blood pressure in check, relying too much on anti-hypertensives for a long time can cause drug resistance. In simple terms, our bodies get used to the drugs so we now need to up the dose or add more drugs to the mix, and that just becomes a vicious cycle. That is why it is high time we start looking beyond the bottle full of tablets and explore other treatment options, a.k.a, non-pharmacological therapies.
Non-pharmacological therapies are alternative methods of treatment that do not involve taking prescription drugs and involve cool ways to de-stress like music therapy. It is a well-known fact that keeping our stress levels in check can help us keep our blood pressure in check. Music therapy, the perfect sidekick to your trusted bottle of anti-hypertensives, does exactly that in a very fun way. Music is magic and science agrees with us! I did a deep dive into some research studies and I found some legit scientific evidence that shows how music can lower blood pressure. So, I thought, let’s make research studies less complicated and more accessible, let’s break it down for everyone to understand.
The research publication I am talking about is titled- "Adjuvant music therapy for Patients with Hypertension: a meta-analysis and systematic review". Since anxiety and negative emotions can make hypertension worse, their big idea was to show us how focusing on improving the psychological state of the patient can lower blood pressure. These researchers gathered data from different clinical trials involving 2306 patients, all to find out how music therapy can help with hypertension. They compared groups of patients receiving music therapy with patients who did not. Let’s dig deeper into their findings.
The research article talks about three parameters related to blood pressure-
A high heart rate is associated with high blood pressure. (3) The article compared two groups of patients- one that was exposed to music therapy and one that wasn’t. The patients who were exposed to music therapy along with their daily meds had significantly lower heart rates compared to the patients who were strictly treated only with anti-hypertensive pills. An overall drop in heart rate for patients with hypertension means a majorly decreased risk for heart disease in the long run. (4)
Systolic Blood Pressure
There was a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure in the group of patients who received music therapy. What does that mean?
Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading and it represents the pressure inside the arteries when the heart beats to pump blood. In simple terms, it is the force exerted on the walls of the blood vessels when the heart contracts. So when we talk about systolic blood pressure, we are talking about the hard work the heart has to put in to pump blood throughout the body. So that means fewer heart attacks and strokes in hypertensives. (5)
Diastolic Blood Pressure
The patients who underwent music therapy had a significant decrease in their diastolic blood pressure compared to the patients who did not. Diastolic blood pressure is the number on the bottom of a blood pressure reading. It is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between two lub-dubs. This means diastolic blood pressure is the pressure on the walls of the blood vessels when the heart is not actively pumping, but filling up with blood, getting ready to pump again. Getting the diastolic blood pressure as close to normal as possible is a key part of getting our hypertension under control.
The systematic review and meta-analysis also talked about a significant lowering in the SAS score, SDS score, HAMA score, and PSQI score of patients who were given music therapy. These scores give us an idea of how anxious, depressed, and sleep-deprived patients with hypertension might be feeling. Simply put, the music therapy group was happier overall and
happier patients have lower blood pressure. (6)
SAS score: Self-Rating Anxiety Scale, which measures the level of anxiety experienced by individuals
SDS score: Self-Rating Depression Scale, which assessed the severity of depressive symptoms
HAMA score: Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale- a tool used to evaluate the intensity of anxiety symptoms
PSQI score: Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index- a measure of sleep quality and disturbances
So here’s the verdict on music therapy- Music therapy works! It can help lower both blood pressure and heart rate, make patients with hypertension feel less anxious and depressed, and improve their quality of sleep. It’s awesome because it is non-invasive with no adverse effects whatsoever. It is a therapy that is easy to provide, accessible to everybody, and not heavy on the pocket at all. The above study did not focus on a specific type of music so we could say all music is great (duh!) but more research on what type of music works best to lower blood pressure would be the holy grail. Overall, music therapy is a must-try intervention for managing hypertension.
Written by: Dr.Manognya Chekragari