You may have heard the expression that laughter is the best medicine. And, indeed, laughing can make almost anyone feel instantly better from a psychological point of view. But, did you know that laughing can help with your physical health, including your heart? As your Denver heart doctors, we want to let you know about some of the heart healthy benefits of laughter. But first, here is a silly cat video, to get you in the mood.
Benefits of Laughter for Your Heart
We hope that you liked the cats and got a giggle or two. If you laughed, you were actually helping your heart. In fact, your entire cardiovascular system just got a little boost. Here are some ways you have just benefited from laughing.
Laughter Increases Blood Flow Through Vessels
A study from the Maryland School of Medicine shows that laughter is linked to the health function of blood vessels. Laughing causes the inner lining of vessels to expand, which increases blood flow. Stress, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, constricting vessels and reducing blood flow. Essentially, when you laugh, endothelium levels are maintained at healthy levels which help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Endothelium helps regulate blood flow and adjusts blood coagulation in response to wounds and injury. So, keeping those levels steady over the long-term helps keep your vessels open and the blood flowing efficiently.
Laughter Reduces Stress, Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
There are hormones in your brain that create stress. And, as we all know, stress is a contributor to heart disease. But laughter has been shown to reduce stress hormones in the hypothalamus section of the brain. As result, blood pressure goes down and helps reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, blood pressure can be reduced significantly within minutes of laughing and the positive effects can last for days according to a study from Loma Linda School of Medicine.
That same study found that negative emotions and attitudes have the opposite effect. Patients with heart disease who are pessimistic about their ability to recover are more than twice as likely, compared to optimists, to die within one year. So, keep laughing!
A Word of Caution
Obviously, prolonged and “side-splitting” laughter can be risky. In a 2013 study based on 67 years of research on laughter and health, only one person was documented as dying of laughter. And, that person had other contributing health issues. But, you should avoid extremes, while enjoying everything you do. A smile can be as good as laughter if a smile is all you can muster.
However, the fact remains, more people with bad hearts die of shoveling snow than they do from laughing. So, the benefits of laughter are still in your favor! And, remember the words of Dr. Heebie, “When you laugh, your blood vessels dilate. I’d rather dilate than early.”
How to Use this Information
Laughter is the best medicine and can help with your daily routine, making you more heart healthy. But, if you have questions about heart health and treatment options, please give us a call and schedule an appointment. Or, feel free to sign up for any number of our classes designed to help you live heart healthy.