Meditation, mindfulness and music for heart health

September 17, 2021 Swedish Heart & Vascular Team

serene senior man relaxing while wearing headphones to listen to music


In this article:

  • Multiple studies show music, meditation and mindfulness can improve your heart’s health.

  • Practicing mindfulness or meditation for 10 minutes a day improves heart rate, reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.

  • Regular meditation lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Picture the scene. Music plays softly in the background. Your eyes are closed and your body’s relaxed. You clear your mind, breathe in deeply and feel the stress recede each time you exhale. Meditation and music are working their magic.

If you’re one of the countless people who practice meditation, you know the power of mindfulness and its impact on your health. And anyone who’s ever rolled down the car windows and cranked up the radio knows the power of music to lift your mood. Healthcare experts agree.

"When we're stressed, our heart races and we tend to breathe more quickly. By taking longer, fuller breaths, we are able to calm our hearts and our minds and improve our focus and memory," said Brenda Manfredi, M.D., a board-certified family medicine physician.

Mastering the art of meditation and mindfulness takes a lot of patience and practice. There is scientific evidence behind the health benefits of investing in your inner self.

"Practicing meditation trains our minds to eliminate the extra noise of modern life and to help us focus on where we are now and what we are doing. Meditation guides us to take a moment for ourselves to clear our minds, sit still and let go of lingering thoughts, focusing instead on the sensations our body is experiencing. It's an inward-focused practice that delivers a much-needed sense of calm and quiet,” she adds.

Follow the science

Yoga fans have known for years that structured breathing, paired with gentle physical activity such as downward-facing dog or child's pose are proven ways to boost your heart health. Multiple studies show music and meditation offer many of the same benefits.

Reduced risk of heart disease

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, regular daily meditation can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers surveyed more than 60,000 people and found that people who meditate regularly have lower cholesterol, better blood pressure and less chance of diabetes, stroke and heart disease than those who did not have a regular relaxation routine.

Let the music play

If you’ve had a heart attack in the past, listening to 30 minutes of music a day can lessen your anxiety, relieve post-op stress and improve your recovery, according to a study presented at a recent session of the American College of Cardiology. Heart attack patients who spent a daily half-hour listening to music experienced less distress, less pain and fewer doubts about their progress than patients who preferred a less rhythmic recovery.

Less stress, less cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone your adrenal gland produces when you're overstressed and overwhelmed. The rush of cortisol that results kicks your fight-or-flight response into overdrive and accelerates your heart rate and blood pressure.

Multiple studies show that both meditation and music can lower your stress, reduce your cortisol levels and improve your heart health — and the benefits can be realized in near real-time. As an added side benefit, music boosts your serotonin and endorphin levels, which brightens your mood and improves your emotional health as well.

Improved heart rate in five minutes a day

Heart rate variability is a way to measure your heart's health. HRV measures the amount of time between your heartbeats. A high HRV is a sign of a healthy heart and research shows meditating a mere five to 10 minutes a day can raise your numbers.

Getting started

Adding more music to your life doesn’t require much effort. Just choose some tunes and let the melody work its magic. Practicing meditation regularly isn’t much more difficult. The basics are easy:

  • Sit quietly with your eyes closed
  • Breathe slowly
  • Relax your muscles and clear your mind
  • Try adding peaceful meditation music, white noise or the sound of trickling water
  • Concentrate on your breath as you inhale and exhale deeply
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes
  • Repeat daily

Although meditation and music can have positive effects on your mental and physical health both short- and long-term, it’s still important to get routine medical care – especially if you’re experiencing prolonged stress that is affecting your quality of life.

Start a new habit

Once you’ve committed to making meditation part of your routine and you’re familiar with the basics of the practice, you may be wondering "how do I make this a habit?" Just like any lifestyle change, it takes time to work out the kinks and incorporate meditation into your day. Our advice is to keep it simple:

  • Set a daily alarm on your phone or block out time on your digital calendar.
  • Try an app that reminds you it’s time to meditate and then records the length of your session.
  • Create a playlist with music that calms and soothes you.
  • Start with a few minutes a day and increase your time in small increments until you reach your goal.

Most importantly — don’t get too caught up with logistics. Practicing meditation and breathing exercises can be done anywhere but remember to start small and stick to a routine and you’ll make success your mantra in no time.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about heart health, contact the cardiology department at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Additional resources 

Where the heart is: one patient’s story

Voices from the frontline: Q&A with Drs. Lam and Zivin

You are not alone: Finding ways to prevent suicide 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

The Swedish Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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