Laughter really may be the best medicine, according to research presented to the American College of Cardiology. Laughing appears to boost your blood flow and researchers say it may reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
But the benefits of laughing don’t stop with your heart: laughing has previously been found to help fight infections, relieve hay fever, ease pain and help control diabetes.
What did this study find?
The researchers found that laughing increased blood flow by more than 20 percent – a similar effect to that of aerobic activity.The positive effect of laughing lasted for 30-45 minutes. In contrast, stress decreased the flow by about 35 percent.
Almost everyone seems to benefit from having a good laugh: 95 percent of the volunteers in the study (19 out of 20) had better blood flow after watching a comedy movie clip. 70 percent (14 out of 20) had a worse blood flow after watching a stressful film sequence What do these findings mean for me? According to the researchers, regular laughter in your life could help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease is a condition in which blood vessels become damaged and narrowed by fatty deposits. This can reduce or stop the blood supply to heart muscles (causing heart disease), the brain (causing stroke) or arms and legs (causing peripheral arterial disease).
Why is laughing good for your heart?
The benefits of laughing lie in its effect on the inner lining (endothelium) of the walls of your arteries. The endothelium plays a vital role in maintaining blood flow by regulating the diameter of the blood vessels.
Damage to the endothelium is one of the factors involved in cardiovascular disease.
Why is blood flow important?
A fast blood flow shows that the arteries are wide and open, so the heart and the rest of the body are well supplied with blood. In contrast, a slow blood flow shows that the arteries have become narrowed and the chances of a blockage forming are increased.
Why does laughter expand blood vessels?
The researchers are not sure exactly how laughter expands the blood vessels. One theory is that the effect is a result of the movement of the diaphragm muscles as you chuckle or guffaw. Another idea is that it’s caused by chemicals called endorphins being released when we laugh.
How does stress make our blood flow slower?
While no-one understands how laughter makes our blood flow faster, the study’s researchers may be able to explain how stress slows the flow down.
A chemical called nitric oxide helps the endothelium to expand. The researchers suggest that mental stress leads to a breakdown in nitric oxide or reduces its production, resulting in narrowing.