When You Laugh, Your Heart Listens
By Sandy Schroeder
I have always known laughter was good for my family. When tension grew, and everyone braced for the next remark, someone would make a funny comment and we would all collapse into laughter. Crisis averted!
But now, researchers are telling us laughter may have even bigger benefits. They believe it may help our hearts.
Researchers’ tests suggest laughter prompts chemical changes in the brain that create a sense of well-being and happiness. They believe laughter is also good for the arteries, increasing blood flow, and laying the groundwork for better health. The laughter they are evaluating is the kind that makes you double over when you watch your favorite funny movie, not the smirk that goes with a sarcastic put-down.
Research linking laughter to heart health has been going on since the 1970s at the University of Maryland, where cardiologist, Michael Miller and his colleagues found laughter triggered artery flexibility.
Miller also worked with Stanford psychiatrist William Fry. They theorized that brain chemicals, endorphins that are released during laughter, link to opiate receptors in the blood vessels, stimulating the release of nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries. The end result can be wider, more flexible arteries that allow better blood flow.
Recently, University of Texas researchers compared artery flexibility in individuals who watched a comedy or a documentary. The ones watching a comedy immediately showed greater artery flexibility that lasted 24 hours. The ones watching a documentary lost a little artery flexibility.
Looking at the Future
More research is sure to follow. If you think about it, wouldn’t you prefer to increase your amount of laughter instead of taking a pill to help your heart?
Laughter has already been spotted as a way to ease anxiety, build confidence, and help us all interact better. Most of us have learned how to soften a trying situation with laughter, or make the day go faster, just by taking a quick break to exchange jokes with a friend.
But the laughter prescription for the heart is still in the formative stages. It should not be singled out as the way to keep the heart healthy. If you have symptoms, go to the emergency room or or call your physician. Maintain regular checkups, monitor your health numbers, eat heathy, maintain a healthy weight, and stay active.
Meanwhile, keep smiling!
To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.