Training your fight-or-flight response to keep your heart healthy

One of my favorite memes I’ve seen floating around Facebook reads, “Don’t stress and just feel the music.”

I think it’s a modern take on this classic: music has charms to soothe the savage beast.

Of course, you’re probably not overly concerned about running into literal savage beasts during your typical day.

These days, the most savage thing you might experience is stress…

And if it’s set sights on you, chances are your health is suffering, but you may not even know it.

Chronic stress can lead to or worsen conditions such as anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems and heart disease.

Past research has shown that music has potential as a stress management tool, which could be very helpful to someone with heart disease.

But let’s hope that you are not there yet. If that’s the case, there’s still another important way music might help keep you from ever having your first heart attack…

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Heart rate variability and what it means

The cardiologists at HG SMS Hospital in Jaipur, India knew music could help reduce anxiety in patients with heart disease. In fact, they were using music therapy on heart patients when they decided to test the effects on the hearts of healthy patients.

They decided to measure the effects of yoga music (calm, relaxing, zen-like), pop music, and no music at all on what’s called heart rate variability.

You see, your body’s heart rate changes as a normal response to being in “fight-or-flight” or “rest and repair” mode. If you have a high heart rate variability, it shows that your heart can adapt to these changes. However, if your heart rate variability is low, it indicates that you could be at risk for problems in the future.

In fact, low heart rate variability is associated with a 32-45 percent higher risk of a first heart attack.

And, following a heart attack, people with low heart rate variability have an increased risk of having more heart attacks in the future and of death.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly why your heart rate variability is linked to your risk of heart attack and death but there are two possibilities…

First is that, if your heart rate can’t adapt to changes between “fight-or-flight” and “rest and repair,” it could trigger inflammation, which is linked to heart disease. The second is that people with low heart rate variability may already have cardiovascular disease – it just hasn’t been diagnosed yet.

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Affecting your heart rate variability

Whatever the link between heart rate variability and heart problems, there may be a simple way to help improve it…

After studying patients’ heart rate variability as they listened to yoga music, pop music or no music, on different nights before bedtime, here’s what they found…

Heart rate variability:

  • Increased during the yoga music
  • Decreased during the pop music
  • Did not significantly change during the silence

They also measured anxiety levels with similar results.

Anxiety levels:

  • fell significantly after the yoga music
  • rose significantly post the pop music
  • increased after the no music session.

And, that’s not all. The scientists even had participants rate their positive feelings before and after each session and discovered that:

  • Participants felt significantly more positive after the yoga music than they did after the pop music.
  • And, had no change following the silent session.

To sum it up, yoga music offered three big benefits: higher heart rate variability which lowers your risk of a heart attack, decreased anxiety and increased positive feelings.

That’s a big return for something that’s enjoyable and could even help you sleep better. Think of it as training for your heart.

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  1. Listening to yoga music at bedtime is good for the heart — European Society of Cardiology
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.