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Laugh It Up! Humor Makes for a Healthy Heart

It doesn’t just feel good to laugh; it is good to laugh. Researchers have found that laughing can be beneficial to the heart.

Before we get to the punchline, some facts: February is American Heart Month and Feb. 3, 2017 is National Wear Red Day to recognize women’s risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association notes that 1 in 3 deaths annually among women are caused by heart disease and stroke, but 80% of those deaths are preventable. During February’s American Heart Month, everyone is encouraged to learn more about heart disease and stroke in order to be part of decreasing the numbers of people at risk.

Research shows that when we laugh, we decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase “good” cholesterol in our bodies. The benefits of a good laugh can last for 24 hours.

Not-So-Funny Stuff

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 85.6 million people are living with cardiovascular disease—this includes heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. While there was a 28.8% drop in cardiovascular death rates between 2003 and 2013, according to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure rates went up 8.2% (no pun intended).

Education about lifestyle changes that can impact one’s heart health has made a difference, along with advancement in medical therapies.

Well-known steps to reduce the risk of heart disease include maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, treating high blood pressure, diabetes or other conditions. It might be time to add a hearty belly laugh every day too.

It’s Not a Joke, It’s Science

A 2009 study at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations (compared to their counterparts without heart disease). When someone experiences mental stress, there can be impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining blood vessels. Over time, this can cause inflammatory reactions which in turn lead to build up in the arteries and then a heart attack.

The benefits of laughter for the heart are real, whether it’s natural or a learned behavior, are the same.

To get your daily dose of heart protecting giggles, doctors suggest watching a funny video clip or entire movie, reading something funny, even a cartoon—or try taking life less seriously. 

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