Laugh, it's good for your heart

A friend gave me a wall plaque I enjoy that reads "Laugh out loud, and laugh often." There is an old adage that "laughter is the best medicine." And in the Bible, Proverbs 17:22, says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." As it turns out, laughter is just good for you. Michael Miller, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine agrees that laughing is especially good for our physical hearts. At an American Heart Association conference, Dr. Miller presented research findings that laughing can protect the heart from a heart attack. "We don't know why laughing protects the heart," he says, "but we do know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels."

We all may experience at some time how stressful negative emotions such as anger, irritation, frustration, hostility, and jealousy can get us all riled up inside, sometimes causing our heart to race. The body chemistry associated with these emotions can actually cause inflammation in the blood vessels making it easy for fat and cholesterol to build up in the arteries of the heart and ultimately lead to a heart attack."

Positive emotions like love, compassion, kind-heartedness, appreciation, joy, and happiness can have a calming effect on our body and our spirit which cuts down on that harmful inflammatory process in our blood vessels. Recently I was out to eat with a friend. I told her about some old silly saying my mother used to say and we were so tickled that tears were streaming down our faces. We made such a commotion that we attracted another friend who joined us in having fun and talking about comical happenings. Our emotions became contagious leading us all to heartfelt and healthy laughter.

But how do we conjure up positive emotions, when we are feeling negative? It is hard to change our attitude. Some suggest that finding something to appreciate is an effective and long-lasting activity toward creating positive emotions. Count your blessings daily for your heart's sake. Dr. Miller suggests building laughter into our days by reading a funny story or joke, watching a humorous video, laughing at something that is not really funny at first glance, and not taking ourselves and others so seriously.

So go ahead, laugh at yourself and protect your heart with a "hearty" laugh. After all, we are all only human, and quite often, one of the funniest creatures on earth.