Laughter: The Key to a Healthy Heart

It turns out that laughter might actually be the best medicine after all. Laughing is a pretty pleasurable experience; no-one would deny it. And in recent years we’ve seen a number of studies finding a link between emotions and cardiovascular health. It’s not surprising to learn that research shows emotions like hostility, anger, depression, anxiety and social isolation all lead to higher rates of heart disease. Knowing this, leading scientists are to take a deeper look into the effects of happiness and laughter.

Laughter has a number of specific benefits to cardiovascular health that can be identified and measured. It’s known that laughter causes the release of beta-endorphins which can lead the body to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a chemical that protects the heart by reducing inflammation, dilating the vessels and preventing the build-up of cholesterol plaque.

Laughing more often is also known as a sign of reduced stress. Stress can be very problematic for our cardiovascular system and we know that it can cause blood vessels to constrict. And further to that, laughter also boosts the number of antibody-producing cells, which leads to a stronger immune system.

Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center first discovered the link between laughter and a healthier heart in 2005. They found that laughter actually increases the blood flow by causing the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate. The team said that the benefit was similar to that of statins, a drug often used to lower cholesterol, but that the effect was more pronounced because it was spontaneous and immediate through laughing.

If seems that a new area of research has opened up for scientists and a debate could now be staged for better ways to prevent heart disease using laughter as a medicine.

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