When Beethoven died at 56 it could have been for any of a number of reasons. Historians believe that he not only suffered from alcohol-induced cirrhosis of the liver, but also lead poisoning, and syphilis as well. The authors of this particular study, though, also believe he may have been prone to atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, or multifocal atrial tachycardia. With this in mind, the looked for certain patterns in his compositions.
“When your heart beats irregularly from heart disease, it does so in some predictable patterns,” explains researcher Joel D. Howell, an internal medicine specialist. “We think we hear some of those patterns in his music.”