For as long as humans have pounded drums and plucked strings, listening to music has affected people's sense of well-being, lifting their spirits and — as new research shows — calming their nerves. Literally. According to a study at Cleveland Clinic, music can slow the neuronal firings deep within the brain during surgery designed to treat Parkinson's patients.
The seeds of this study were planted about two years ago, when a patient named Damir Janigro was being prepped for spinal surgery. Janigro, who is also a neuroscientist at the clinic, lay captive to the nerve-racking din of the operating room and in his frazzled state thought about how dentists often give their patients earphones to help ease anxiety.
If people getting root canals merited a musical intervention, he thought, why not people undergoing brain surgery? Patients with conditions such as epilepsy, brain tumors, severe depression, and obsessive-compulsive and motor disorders like Parkinson's have to be awake for surgical procedures that often take several hours. Janigro and his team decided to use that wakeful period to determine whether music made the subjects' experience in the operating room less stressful.
In Janigro's study, more than a dozen neurosurgical patients, predominantly with Parkinson's, listened to three musical selections — rhythmic music with no discernible melody (by Gyorgi Ligeti, of Stanley Kubrick–movie fame), melodic music with undefined rhythm (by Aaron Jay Kernis, a Pulitzer Prize winner) and something in between (Ludwig van Beethoven). In the later stages of the research, to prevent familiarity from swaying the subjects' responses, music was specifically composed for the study by students from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
In the end, patients almost unanimously said the purely melodic offerings were the most soothing. But the recordings of their brain activity were eye-opening.
Listening to melodic music decreased the activity of individual neurons in the deep brain, says Janigro, adding that the physical responses to the calming music ranged from patients' closing their eyes to falling asleep. Some patients even settled into a nice round of snoring. And when lead neurosurgeon Ali Rezai needed patients to perform an action, such as lifting a limb, during the procedures, he simply removed their earphones and relayed instructions. Once the music resumed, patients returned to their snoozing.
These are very desirable results, says Janigro. With the right music, he says, patients can be more relaxed in the operating room. And that relaxation may mean not only that procedures involve less medication — to control blood pressure, which increases with stress — but perhaps that patients have quicker recovery times and shorter hospital stays.
Janigro anticipates that following institutional approval, music will be used during certain neurosurgical procedures at the clinic as early as 2010. He hopes other hospitals will soon follow Cleveland's lead. "This type of surgery can be a traumatizing experience, and using music can decrease anxiety," he notes.
When it comes to heart health, there is one fat that won't work against you -- fish oil.
Experts recommend eating fresh fish at least once a week.
While most of us need more fish in our diets, heart experts recommend that people at risk for or with coronary artery disease should consume about one gram of fish oil per day. That's the same amount in three ounces of wild salmon (farmed fish may have less heart-healthy fats than wild).
Healthy people should aim for 500 milligrams a day, according to Dr. James O'Keefe, a cardiologist with the Mid-America Heart Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and fish oil as well as some plant foods, can decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
Eating at least one fish meal a week was associated with a 52 percent reduction of risk for sudden cardiac death, according to a 1998 study of over 20,000 U.S. male physicians. Specifically, it can help prevent arrhythmias, lower triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), slow down the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and slightly lower blood pressure.
Nutritionists recommend taking a food-based approach to fish oil before turning to capsule supplements, because fish is also a good source of protein and other nutrients.
Joyce Baber, 54, from New Egypt, New Jersey, is trying to do just that to help lower her high cholesterol, 233 (LDL, 174; HDL, 59) and slightly elevated blood pressure.
"My doctor recommended omega-3," she says. "My LDL should be 130 or less and my HDL should be closer to 100." Patients with high cholesterol patients who consumed EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid, daily showed a 19 percent decrease in non-fatal coronary events, including heart attack, according to a 2007 Japanese study of over 18,000 people.
How much fish should you eat?
People with a history of cardiovascular disease should include fatty fish, such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon, in their diet two to three times per week. Those without a history of heart disease are advised to eat fish at least one to two times per week. Health.com: Five fab fish dishes
Pregnant women should consume two fatty fish meals a week, while avoiding shark, tile fish, king mackerel and swordfish, which may contain some environmental contaminants such as mercury, according to the FDA.
Eat with your mind as well as your mouth, and pay close to attention to how the fish is prepared. Fried fish and fish from fast food restaurants do not offer the same heart health benefits as baked and broiled fish. Health.com: 20 meals that won't kill your cholesterol
Tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnuts and flaxseeds, and their oils, are also rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid, which is converted to omega-3 fatty acid in the body. Omega-3-enriched eggs are also available in supermarkets.
here's a strong inclination today among many Americans to try alternative medicines, as Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with western medicine's inability to deal with many chronic disorders and illnesses. Americans are more than willing to explore and see if an alternative medicine like Ayurveda, that's gaining popularity in the U.S., could offer a better solution.
With over a fifth of American hospitals now offering some sort of alternative therapy along with conventional medicine, an astonishing one in three Americans have used — and are continuing to use some form of alternative or complementary medicines, most of them without informing their physicians.
With the ever rising demand for such wellness therapies to offset life’s many stresses and health disorders that make life unbearable and make people age more quickly than they expect, DanGlobalMed, a medical tourism company is offering 12 great wellness programs at an Ayurvedic Spa Beach Resort.
As a complementary therapy Ayurveda's popularity in the U.S. is increasing. "There is a major push for study on Ayurveda in the United States,” says Dr. Daniel Furst, director of clinical research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who led a study of rheumatoid arthritis to test combinations of allopathic and Ayurvedic treatments to determine efficacy. “It (Ayurveda) has been practiced for 3,000 years. No one will do it if it is garbage. It will gain credibility if adequately tested and will be used more.” Americans are spending billions on alternative medical treatments. And major hospitals and medical schools are embracing them.Ayurveda addresses the well-being of the entire person. Herbs and minerals, nutrition and purification, affirmative ways of living are a few of the ways in which Ayurveda treats not just the ailment but the whole person, emphasizing prevention of disease to avoid the need for cure.