ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Trigger Natural Painkiller
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
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'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Winter Is Tough on Feet
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
Many Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D
CANCER
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Get to Know the Pap Test
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
CAREGIVING
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
Older Caregivers Prone to Worse Sleep Patterns
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
COSMETIC
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating Free Range
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Household Chemicals May Affect Cholesterol Levels
Hairspray Exposure Ups Risk for Birth Defect in Sons
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
EYE CARE, VISION
When Corks Fly, Watch the Eyes
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
FITNESS
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
Hand-Washing Habits Still Need Improvement: Survey Says
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Hoping for a Happy Family Holiday? Here's How
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
MENTAL HEALTH
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
SENIORS
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
Any Old Cane Won't Do
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
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Tune Up Your Health With Music

The litany of suspected benefits is long: It can soothe infants and adults alike, trigger memories, temper pain, aid sleep and make the heart beat faster or slower. "It," of course, is music.

A growing body of research has been making such suggestions for years. Just why music seems to have these effects, though, remains elusive.

There's a lot to learn, said Robert Zatorre, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, where he studies the topic at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Music has been shown to help with such things as pain and memory, he said, but "we don't know for sure that it does improve our [overall] health."

And though there are some indications that music can affect both the body and the mind, "whether it translates to health benefits is still being studied," Zatorre said.

In one study, Zatorre and his colleagues found that people who rated music they listened to as pleasurable were more likely to report emotional arousal than those who didn't like the music they were listening to. Those findings were published in October in PLoS One.

From the scientists' standpoint, he explained, "it's one thing if people say, 'When I listen to this music, I love it.' But it doesn't tell what's happening with their body." Researchers need to prove that music not only has an effect, but that the effect translates to health benefits long-term, he said.

One question to be answered is whether emotions that are stirred up by music really affect people physiologically, said Dr. Michael Miller, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

For instance, Miller said he's found that listening to self-selected joyful music can improve blood flow and perhaps promote vascular health. So, if it calms someone and improves their blood flow, will that translate to fewer heart attacks? "That's yet to be studied," he said.

But in a paper published in the November issue of Medical Hypotheses, Miller suggested the way by which emotions -- such as those triggered when listening to a favorite tune -- might influence the heart.

"Endorphins or endorphin-like compounds are released from the brain in response to pleasurable emotions," he said. "That directly activates the endorphins to release nitric oxide. It's a protective chemical, one of the important chemicals produced by the endothelium [the inner lining of the blood vessels]. It's important in biological and physiological functions -- it causes blood vessels to dilate, it reduces inflammation, it prevents platelets from sticking and cholesterol from being taken up into plaque."

But that might be just part of the story, Miller said. "There are likely to be other effects that have been largely unexplored," he said.

Stress reduction that results from listening to good music might also explain the health benefits, said Aniruddh Patel, a senior fellow at the Neuroscience Institute in San Diego. "Music is known to reduce people's stress and actually have physiological effects on the stress hormone cortisol," he said.

In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, music was reported to help people who'd had a stroke recover their sight, and Patel said that makes sense.

"The brain is trying to heal itself," he said. "The less stress hormone floating around up there, the better the brain can do its job." That's possibly why it worked, he said.

And as studies continue to find additional benefits from music, scientists continue to investigate the underpinnings.

"We have a trickle of information now about how it works," Patel said. "I think this is a growing area. That trickle is going to become a stream, and that stream is going to become a river."

Until then, Miller's advice is to listen to music you like for 15 to 20 minutes a day -- and to consider it as healthful a practice as exercising regularly and eating healthily.

SOURCES: Michael Miller, M.D., professor, medicine, and director, Center for Preventive Cardiology, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore; Robert Zatorre, Ph.D., Montreal Neurological Institute, and professor, department of neurology and neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal; Aniruddh Patel, Ph.D., Esther J. Burnham senior fellow, Neurosciences Institute, San Diego; March 23, 2009, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Oct. 16, 2009, PLoS One online; November 2009, Medical Hypotheses