Listening to music while driving may reduce heart attack risk

In a new study, researchers found that stress while driving is a risk factor for the development of heart disease and sudden cardiac complications such as heart attack.

Selecting suitable driving music may be one way to mitigate this risk. The researchers suggest that listening to instrumental music may relieve cardiac stress.

The research was conducted by a team at São Paulo State University and in the UK and Italy.

The researchers analyzed the effects of music on cardiac stress in five women between the ages of 18 and 23.

All women were healthy, considered nonhabitual drivers (they drove once or twice a week), and had obtained a license 1-7 years previously.

The volunteers were assessed on two days, in different situations and in random order.

On one day, they drove for 20 minutes at rush hour (5:30-6:30 pm) along a 3 km route in a busy district of Marília, a medium-sized city in the northwest of São Paulo State, without listening to music.

On the other day, the volunteers drove the same route at the same time of day but listened to instrumental music on a CD player coupled to the car radio.

The use of earbuds or headphones while driving is a traffic offense.

The level of cardiac stress was estimated by measuring heart rate variability using a heart rate monitor attached to the participant’s chest.

Defined as fluctuations in the intervals between consecutive heartbeats, heart rate variability is influenced by the autonomic nervous system.

The more active the sympathetic nervous system, the faster the heartbeats, while the parasympathetic nervous system tends to slow it down.

The team found that cardiac stress in the participants was reduced by listening to music while they were driving.

They say listening to music attenuated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experienced as they drove.

The results of the study could help develop heart disease presentation methods in situations of acute stress, such as driving in heavy traffic.

One author of the study is Vitor Engrácia Valenti, a professor at UNESP Marília.

The study is published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

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