How laughing can make you healthier

Sarah Marinos, Good health magazine
Monday, September 10, 2012
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Brought to you by Good Health magazine

We've all experienced that lift we get from having a good giggle, but now research has found that having a laugh can also improve heart health, increase life expectancy and make pain more tolerable.

When we laugh our body releases neurotransmitters and hormones that reduce stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline – in the body. This in turn helps lower blood pressure.

The muscles we use to laugh also get a workout – the diaphragm, abdominal and facial muscles and our leg and back muscles.

Having a good laugh also makes our lungs expand, helping us breathe more easily.

And it gives our cardiovascular systems a boost, as our blood vessels are expanded as a result of laughter so blood flows more easily. The brain also benefits as the left and right hemispheres have to work together so we ‘get’ the joke. Here, we look at some of the ways a good, hearty laugh can boost your wellbeing.

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Laugh for a healthy heart

If you want to reduce your risk of heart problems, watch a funny movie. Just a 15-minute burst of laughter can expand blood vessels and improve blood flow, according to the University of Maryland. Researchers found laughter causes the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels, to expand, which improves blood flow. However, watching a sad or upsetting movie constricted blood vessels.

“Laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” says lead researcher Dr Michael Miller. “Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week and 15 minutes of laughter daily is probably good for the vascular system."

Lower blood sugar

A good chuckle may also help your body process blood sugar more effectively if you have diabetes. Watching something that makes you laugh for about 40 minutes after you eat seems to limit the rise in blood glucose levels.

Watching something boring doesn’t help blood glucose, shows a study from Japan. Researchers believe using our muscles to laugh may use up blood sugar, or it may be that the positive emotions which arise from laughter act on the body’s endocrine system instead, to limit a rise in blood glucose.

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Live longer

Make laughter a priority – it could help you live longer. A study of more than 500 people over the age of 95 found that an easygoing, optimistic personality and enjoying a laugh play a role in longevity, although researchers aren’t exactly sure how.

"When we assessed the personalities of 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life," says Dr Nir Barzilai from Yeshiva University in the US.

"Most were outgoing, optimistic and easy-going – and they considered laughter an important part of life."

For the full story, see the October issue of Good Health. Subscribe to Good Health and receive a FREE Sukin Face Essentials Pack, valued at $39.95!

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