ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
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ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
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Acupuncture May Help Restore Lost Sense of Smell
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ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
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BONES & JOINTS
Fractures in Older Adults Up Death Risk
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Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
CANCER
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon, Breast Cancers
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
CAREGIVING
Late-Life Fatherhood May Lower Child's Intelligence
Study Casts Doubt on Influential Hospital Safety Survey
Children's Bath Products Contain Contaminants
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
DIABETES
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DIET, NUTRITION
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
Fasting on Alternate Days May Make Dieting Easier
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Population-Based Strategy Urged to Cut U.S. Obesity Rate
Heavy Traffic Can Be Heartbreaking
Seasons Arriving 2 Days Earlier, Study Says
EYE CARE, VISION
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
FDA Mandates New Warnings for Botox
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Hoping for a Happy Family Holiday? Here's How
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
Multivitamins Might Prolong Life
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Omega-3, Some Omega-6 Fatty Acids Boost Cardiovascular Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Quick Orthopedic Repair Can Save Young Shoulders
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Any Old Cane Won't Do
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Health Tip: Be More Comfortable During Childbirth
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
Heal Your LifeŽ 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