Heart attacks can be lethal, particularly if they happen outside of a hospital, but many people recover. A significant number of these people experience anxiety and chest pains in the first 2 days after the cardiac event.
The CDC also point out that a person who has had a heart attack may have a higher risk of a future heart attack or cardiovascular disease.
Treatment for a heart attack depends on the type of attack and factors specific to each person. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it may involve various procedures and prescription medications.
The new study included 350 people who had experienced a heart attack and had postinfarction angina — chest pain that follows a heart attack.
Half of these people received only the usual treatment, while the other half received this and 30 minutes of music therapy per day.
The music therapy was tailored to each individual. First, the researchers played 30-second clips of different types of music to each person and determined how calming each type was by measuring the dilation of the person’s pupils.
After deciding which type was the most relaxing, the researchers worked with each participant to select the most calming tempo and tonality.
The team then asked the people in the music therapy group to listen to the music for 30 minutes a day, at any time that was convenient, preferably with their eyes closed in a calm environment.
This continued for 7 years, with the music therapy participants regularly filling in a log of their experiences.
All of the participants had follow-up assessments every 3 months for the first year, then once a year for the remaining 6 years.
After the 7 years, the researchers found that the people who had music therapy as well as traditional treatments were significantly less likely to experience anxiety, pain sensation, and pain distress than those who only received traditional treatments.
On average, the music therapy group had one-third less anxiety and one-quarter less angina pain than the regular treatment group, based on scores.
Moreover, the researchers found that the people who received music therapy were significantly less likely to experience a variety of heart conditions. This group had 18% less heart failure, 23% fewer heart attacks, 20% less need of coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and 16% lower incidence of cardiac death.
Prof. Mitrovic speculated that music therapy may achieve these effects by reducing a person’s fight or flight response, which puts additional pressure on the heart.
“Unrelieved anxiety can produce an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity, leading to an increase in cardiac workload.”
– Prof. Predrag Mitrovic
Going forward, Prof. Mitrovic wants to look at the results in more detail, to explore the specific effects of the therapy on participants of different ages and on those with additional health issues.