Laughter is good for you and your heart — and we should all do it more often.
Unfortunately, there is a gaping chasm between the number of times the average child laughs each day as compared to the average adult. Our children are laughing between 300-400 times every day. And adults? A paltry 26. Ladies and gents, we shouldn’t hold back on our giggles, laughs, guffaws and snorts. Not only does it release feel-good endorphins and boost our sense of well-being – it does amazing things for our heart health!
Children live in the moment and embrace the newness of each experience with great big emotions. They tend to respond in ways that would be embarrassing if adults did it. Have you ever seen an adult jump up and down and squeal with delight, or run a victory lap around the park when someone hands them a Popsicle? While we don’t have to laugh until milk comes out of our noses, a daily dose of exuberant laughter can help dampen our stress response, lower blood pressure and release those oh-so-important endorphins. Go ahead, live vicariously through the eyes of children, and you’ll surely find yourself with a case of the giggles.
Endorphins are your body's natural, feel-good brain chemicals. They can temporarily relieve pain and protect your heart by helping reduce blood pressure. When you lower your blood pressure, you reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Laughter is good for your mind, body and soul
Laughter is a fun, free and easy way to reduce the effects of stress, pain and conflict. In fact, the health benefits can last up to 45 minutes following a good hearty laugh. Humor is a terrific way to create a psychological distance between you and a difficult situation, allowing you to re-examine the situation with a fresh perspective and help you feel less overwhelmed or distraught.
Laughing is a great way to release tension, relax and naturally improve the function of your blood vessels to increase blood flow. All of this protects your heart by lowering your risk for heart attack or other cardiovascular problems.
The social aspect of sharing a laugh or two with friends and family is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. It can also help reunite people after a disagreement or difficult situation. Humor and playful communication strengthen relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection.
Connecting with loved ones – it’s good for your health
The holidays are fast approaching. Spending time with friends, family and loved ones is the perfect time to share stories, memories, happiness and laughter.
Humor and playful interactions not only strengthen our relationships by triggering stronger emotional bonds and positive feelings, but they also create a buffer against unhealthy stress responses as well as its consequences to your health.
Six benefits of laughter for better heart health
When was the last time you laughed from your belly? If you can’t remember, it’s time to find something that tickles your funny bone. Your heart will thank you in the most incredible ways. When you have a good laugh, you can reap the heart-healthy rewards for up to 24 hours after your chortles and chuckles have stopped:
- Decrease stress hormones
Stress constricts your blood vessels and decreases your circulation. Chronic stress can leave you vulnerable to serious conditions such as heart disease, blood clots and heart attack. Laughter stimulates circulation and helps relax your muscles, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress as well as the health risks to your heart. Laughter can lighten burdens, inspire hope and encourage deeper connections. It is also a great way to reduce feelings of anger, a common stress trigger.
- Reduce your risk of heart disease
Laughter is good for your cardiovascular system because it helps prevent a build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on your artery walls. Laughing leaves a lasting and positive effect on your blood pressure and relaxes your body. Seeking out positive or humorous experiences can change your physiology and help you stay well.
- Reduce artery inflammation
A good hearty laugh causes the inner lining of your blood vessels to dilate by releasing nitric oxide, a chemical compound that helps reduce inflammation and prevent plaque from forming in your arteries. In fact, laughing may be just as effective at reducing inflammation as engaging in aerobic exercise or taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins.
- Increase “good” cholesterol levels
High LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) can lead to heart disease if it is left untreated. Laughing has shown to positively affect the HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) in your body. Good cholesterol flows through your blood and pushes the bad cholesterol out of your arteries, back to the liver. It is then eliminated. Laugher is particularly important for diabetic patients, who usually have lower HDL cholesterol levels. Diabetics who laugh approximately 30 minutes a day increase their HDL cholesterol about 26 percent at the end of 12 consecutive months.
- Improve blood vessel function
Laughter may encourage your endothelium, the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, to expand and increase blood flow. Having a healthy endothelium can help prevent atherosclerosis (a hardening of the blood vessels) and cardiovascular disease.
- Increase blood flow
When you laugh your blood vessels expand, increasing blood flow throughout your body. Having a healthy blood flow means your heart, muscles, arms and legs are getting an optimal flow of oxygen-rich blood, which helps reduces your risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Find fun ways to laugh every day
Just as Thanksgiving teaches us that there is always something to be thankful for, the compassionate doctors at Providence Health & Services want to keep your heart healthy by helping you find something to laugh about each day:
- Do something silly
Take yourself a little less seriously and make time to laugh at yourself
- Host a dinner party
Social gatherings have a way of creating a happy atmosphere filled with humor
- Read something funny
Grab the funny pages or a joke book and take a break for laughter
- Play with your kids
You’d be surprised how much laughter can come out of a game of hide and seek
- Make time for fun activities
Enjoying amusement park rides, bowling or karaoke always gets the giggles going
Whether you get together with friends and family or watch something funny on television this holiday season, make sure you protect your heart by giving yourself a reason to laugh each day. If you need expert cardiovascular care, our team of physicians is ready to help. For more on improving your heart health, sign up below for our free monthly e-newsletter.
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