Your Heart Health May Be a Laughing Matter
The next time you’re sitting down to watch a movie, consider picking a funny movie instead of a more serious flick. A recent study has found that laughing may improve your heart health.
The research was conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris on August 28, 2011.
The current study was a continuation of research conducted ten years earlier, in which 300 individuals were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding whether or not they found certain situations to be humorous. That study found a connection between heart disease and a lack of humor; people with heart disease were 40% less likely to find a situation funny compared to those without heart disease. However, the scientists were unable to conclusively state that laughing can protect against heart disease.
In the current study, individuals watched a segment from a funny movie one day and a segment from a stressful movie the next day. The scientists took over 300 measurements and observed a 30-50% difference in blood vessel diameter between blood vessel expansion (when the participants were laughing) and blood vessel constriction (when the participants were experiencing mental stress).
Blood vessel constriction, known as vasoconstriction, reduces blood flow to the heart. It can play an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers concluded that laughter may be as important to heart health as aerobic exercise or statin use. They cautioned that more research is needed but suggested that daily laughter may be a useful tool to help prevent heart disease.