Scientists say this 191-year-old symphony could help your heart health.

I'm going to play you a song.

You probably know it. In fact, you probably know it extremely well.


That's the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, aka "Ode to Joy." Arguably the single most recognizable piece of music of all time.

(Sorry, "Too Much Time on My Hands," by Styx.)

Now I'm going to play you something else. Really listen closely this time.

That's the third movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Part of the same piece of music. But there's a good chance you've never heard it before.

It's kind of a deep cut. Like the beginning of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Or the fourth verse of "The Star Spangled Banner," which we know exists, but don't actually know.

And turns out it's just a stream of anti-British obscenities. Image by Neutrality/Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, the fourth movement pretty much gets all the love, glory, and fame (not to mention all the sweeeeet electric guitar covers). Which is a shame.

Because the third movement might have magical healing powers.

Seriously.

According to a group of fancy Oxford University scientists, listening to the third movement of Beethoven's No. 9 might actually lower your blood pressure and help fight heart disease. In real life.

Music therapy has been a thing for a while. But British researchers just hit upon some of the first concrete evidence that it's actually, like, a thing.

According to Laura Donnelly at The Telegraph:

"Research presented to the the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) conference in Manchester found that listening to music with a repeated 10-second rhythm coincided with a fall in blood pressure, reducing the heart rate.Such recordings include Va Pensiero by Italian composer Giusuppe Verdi, Nessun Dorma by Giacomo Puccini and Beethoven's 9th Symphony adagio[*]."

*They're talking about the third movement here. ("Adagio" is just a fancy Italian word that means, "Yo, Mikey! Play this part kinda slowly! ...

...and say "hi" to your sister for me.") Painting by George Agnew Reid/Wikimedia Commons.

What's more? There's evidence that the composers might have even done this intentionally.

"Professor Sleight explained some composers, including Verdi, seemed to have managed to mirror the natural rise and fall of blood pressure in the human body.' Verdi may well have been a physiologist,' he said, 'he hit on this ten-second rhythm in blood pressure and you can see it in his music.'" — Elizabeth Davis, Classic FM

That's right.

A bunch of 18th- and 19th-century composers — before the dawn of modern medicine — got together and basically said, "OK, guys. It's obvious that lots of our fellow Austrians and Italians and Prussians and whatever are super stressed out. Since a low-sodium diet won't be invented for another couple hundred years, let's help 'em out and write some calm-as-hell classical music that mimics the function of their circulatory system."

And that's kind of amazing.

OK, but what does this mean? You know, for us?

First, nothing's been proven. This is not, like, prescribable medicine (yet). But the study suggests that these effects aren't individual, but universal. If more evidence confirms these findings, it could mean that the same types of songs with similar rhythms (like Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, third movement) might work to lower blood pressure in all of us. That's pretty neat.

And even though nothing's been proven, why not spend some time listening to some dope classical music that's not only free but might be magic medicine?

There is literally zero downside and possible tremendous upside to chilling out with this magnificent Verdi tune:

And this Beethoven one (you know the one):

And this sweet Puccini track:

Interestingly, the same study found that listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers actually increased subjects' heart rates pretty much across the board.

"Bjzzeijf Californburggg Tnksahruuuunnnnfffff Giveitawaynnaaabbbusfdna." Image by Carlos Delgado/Wikimedia Commons.

Which doesn't mean that listening to RHCP would necessarily immediately cause a massive heart attack of course, but uh ... you can't totally rule it out now, can you?

But I digress.

The most important takeaway of all?

If you're pushing the fourth movement of Beethoven's No. 9, even Beethoven knows you're basic.


Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler.

Beethoven's No. 9, third movement: Good for the heart. Better for the soul.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

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"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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