Is Laughter The Best Medicine For Heart?

Dr. Shivali Ahlawat M.B.B.S, MD ,DNB Pathology Lab Director- National Reference Lab, Gurugram

If not the best for acute conditions, laughter is a strong medicine, especially for the human heart – triggering healthy physical and emotional changes. Laughter is commonly effective in strengthening the body’s immune system, diminishing pain and protecting people from the adversities of stress. The basic emotional changes that can be visible with good humourare that it will lighten the burden, inspire hope, help connect smoothly with people and thereby socialize easily. Laughter also helps in the release of anger and forgiving others sooner, thereby keeping the person grounded, focused and alert.

Art & Science of laughter

Primarily, laughter is the instant physical response of the body to happiness. While the human body is responsive to all emotions, including the good and the bad ones, negative emotions like stress, depression and loneliness posean immediate or long-term threat to the human heart. For example, anger causes the release of stress hormones that can cause inflammation and muscle spasms, triggering anxiety, and the stress hormones release chemicals that escalate vascular dysfunction and increase the risk for heart diseases.

Laughter has been proven to eliminate the negative symptoms associated with stress. While laughing, the body releases endorphins – which make a person feel good and get away with the negative emotions.

Studies have indicated that people of the same age group, with heart diseases, are 40 per cent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations than people without heart diseases. While “laughter is the best medicine” is an old saying, multiple scientific researches have been hinting that it is definitely a major medicine when it comes to heart diseases.

According to data, laughter can cure major ailments, with both short-term and long-term effects.

Short-term benefits

Organ stimulation: With good laughter, the body’s intake of oxygen-rich air increases, stimulating key body organs like heart, lungs and muscles. Also, the brain’s release ofendorphins or the happy hormones increases, giving major relief from negative emotions like stress, anger, anxiety, etc.
Stress relief: Humor acts as a catalyst in firing up and then cooling down the body’s stress response, thereby increasing and decreasing the heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in relaxation.

Tension release and muscle relaxation: Laughter stimulates circulation within the body, and helps the muscles to relax; thereby aiding the reduction of some of the physical symptoms of stress. With the physical tensions and stress being relieved through a hearty laughter, the muscles of the body stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes.

Burning calories: Astudy suggests that laughing 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories, a significant amount to lose three or four pounds over the year, which is also effective for a healthy heart.

Long-term benefits

Enhanced immunity: Positive thoughts and humour result in the release of neuropeptides, which are effective in fighting stress and other serious diseases. On the other hand, negative thoughts manifest chemical reactions in the body that can bring in stress and affect the body’s immune system.
Pain relief: Laughter helps the body to release its natural painkillers, and can be effective in relieving pain in the long run.
Personal satisfaction: Humour increases the social skills of a person and gives him/her a better edge towards coping up with difficult situations.
Longevity: Studies, mostly done on people battling cancer, have brought forward that people with a sound sense of humour are more likely to live longer than those who do not laugh as much.

Impact of laughter on the heart

Laughter is specifically effective in improving the functionalities of the blood vessels, as a result, increases the blood flow in the body – which is a major reason behind low possibilities of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. Improved vascular functions and proper blood flow keep the heart working at a steady pace and reduces the chances of major diseases.

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