The next time you listen to an orchestra and the French horn player rises to a high note, something else may be rising, too: the musician's blood pressure.
A study by two researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that the higher the note played on a French horn, the higher the horn player's blood pressure tended to rise.Dr. Joel Dimsdale and Richard Nelesen conducted blood pressure tests as part of an investigation into why a French horn player, who was taking medicine for high blood pressure, became dizzy whenever he played a note higher than G.
Using a blood pressure monitor attached to the musician's finger, the researchers asked him to play up the musical scale from middle C to high C and down again, holding each note for at least 15 seconds.
The musician's diastolic pressure, the relaxing pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is between beats, rose from about 96 at middle C to 113 at high C.
In a letter in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, Dimsdale and Nelesen said it is not clear if the finding would apply to other horn players.
But, they said, the research may explain the folklore among brass players, which says that musicians who have to blow hard into their instruments have higher rates of blood pressure-related problems like strokes, eyeball bleeding and detached retinas.