Need a reason to laugh? A good chuckle can help keep your heart healthy in addition to lightening your mood and alleviating stress.
It may actually be true that laughter is the best medicine. Although researchers aren’t exactly sure why laughter is so good for your heart, studies have shown some heart-boosting effects of laughing that shouldn’t be ignored.
Not only does laughing help diminish symptoms of stress, anxiety, anger and depression, all of which increase your chance of developing heart disease, but laughing has also been shown to have other effects that are good for your heart. Research suggests laughter can decrease stress, reduce inflammation and increase your good cholesterol (HDL).
Here are some of the heart-boosting benefits of a good laugh:
- Reduces inflammation in arteries. A study done at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that laughter causes the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate by releasing nitric oxide. This helps relax arteries and improves blood flow. Nitric oxide may also help reduce inflammation and prevent the formation of plaque in your arteries. The effects found were similar to those that come from engaging in aerobic exercise or taking statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs. Another small study done at the University of Texas at Austin found that adults who watched a funny video showed immediate improvement in artery function and flexibility.
- Lowers stress hormones. Laughter can lower levels of cortisol and epinephrine, stress hormones that cause your blood vessels to constrict and can negatively impact heart health. Laughter can also protect your heart by reducing blood pressure.
- Gives your heart a workout. You may not think of laughing as exercise, but laughter gets your heart pumping and can burn as many calories as walking at a slow to moderate pace.
- Good for your immune system. A hearty laugh may increase the number of antibody-producing T-cells in the body, which can strengthen your immune system, although research on this is still in its infancy stages.
- May improve cholesterol levels. A small study of diabetic patients with high cholesterol and high blood pressure found that laughter increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL) by 26% at the end of one year in participants who spent 30 minutes laughing each day.
One of the benefits of laughing is that you can do it just about anywhere and at any time. Another one is that it just feels good to laugh. The heart-healthy effects of laughing are immediate and have been found to last for 24 hours.
So what can you do to get in a healthy dose of laughter each day?
Just about anything you find humorous will work. Watch funny videos online, share a joke with a friend or go to a comedy show. Spend time with pets or kids. Laughter is contagious and children generally laugh a lot more than adults. Or simply try to take yourself less seriously and see the lighter side of events that may otherwise frustrate you. There’s really no downside to laughing, and if nothing else, it’s sure to brighten the moment.