First, the patients wore a device that tracked their blood pressure for 24 hours. Next, they were given a CD of classical, Celtic, or Indian music. All of the tunes on the CD had similar slow rhythms, Professor Pietro A. Modesti, MD, PhD, of Italy's University of Florence, tells WebMD in an email.
The patients were assigned to listen to the CD for 30 minutes per day for a month and to breathe slowly while listening to the music, taking twice as long to exhale as to inhale. At the end of the month, the patients wore the blood pressure monitor again.
The patients' blood pressure improved during the study. When the experiment ended, their average systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) had dropped three points, and their average diastolic blood pressure (the second number in a blood pressure reading) had dropped four points.
For comparison, 20 other patients didn't listen to music or practice slow breathing. Their blood pressure didn't change during the study.
It's not clear what mattered more, the music or the slow breathing. "The antihypertensive effects [have] to be considered as the result of the combination of music and breathing exercises," Modesti notes.
The findings were presented in New Orleans at the American Society of Hypertension's annual scientific meeting. Modesti calls for further studies to see if the results hold up in the long term.