A laugh a day could keep a heart attack away

5 ways laughter helps your heart
February 10th, 2017

grandpa holding playing with grandkids on the couch

Laughter really is the best medicine when it comes to your heart health. A small change to how you go about your daily life can make big difference. You can add laughter into taking a walk with a friend or work a few laughs into having a meal with your family – even what you watch on TV can help your heart health.

“People find enjoyment from different activities and interactions,” said UCHealth cardiologist Dr. Justin Strote. “Working on reducing stress in daily life is very important and adding laughter is a great way to do so.”

Here are some tips and information on why it’s great to laugh your way to a healthier heart.

Find the funny, feel better.

Have you ever felt worse after having one of those laughing fits that you just can’t stop? The kind where your stomach hurts afterward? No?

Well, there’s an actual physical reason and amazing benefit to your heart health when you laugh.

●      Your body’s natural feel-good chemicals, endorphins, are released, which can give you a sense of overall well-being and relieve pain temporarily.

●      Your body actually decreases stress hormones and increases overall immunity to fight off disease.

●      More blood starts pumping through your body, which is always a good thing.

●      The physical effects of laughing can last up to 24 hours.

Laughter yoga – it’s a real thing.

You know exercise is good for your heart, but you may not always do enough of it, right? Laughter isn’t a replacement for going to the gym or getting active, but it does burn more calories than not laughing, which always adds up to a healthier heart. And, yes, there actually are laughter yoga classes you can probably find in your area. Check out Denverlaughs.com for a directory. You could also just listen to a comedy station when you go to the gym because every little change adds up when it comes to your heart health.

Who makes you laugh?

Spending time with the people who make you laugh is always a good thing. Whether it’s going for a walk around the park or going out to (a healthy) dinner, whenever you get together with those friends and family members who make you smile, the result is that you feel good, which means your heart feels good too.

Mind over matters of the heart

We’re not referring to your love life, but more how laughter can help your mental state. How you’re feeling can impact your heart health in all sorts of ways, both good and bad. That’s why laughter is so great. It makes you feel good. If you were in a bad mood, you laugh a bit and now you’re in a good mood. You were stressed, you laugh, less stress. Simple.

The result of feeling good makes everything seem possible. And when that happens, those small changes like eating a little better or getting a bit more exercise seem easier. A little laugh that makes you happy ends up helping your heart.

“Periods of high stress and resultant high adrenaline levels have been linked to causing heart attacks,” Strote said. “If we assume those who laugh more generally have lower stress levels then those who do not, it stands to reason laughter can aid in general wellbeing.”

Look for a laugh.

There are opportunities all around you, and all through your day, you only have to know what to look for. Here are a few examples to start with:

●      Have a game night with your family or friends.

●      Goof around. Kids can be an endless source for this activity.

●      When you watch TV, check out online videos or go to a movie, try to select a funny option more often than not.

●      Go out with friends to a comedy club.

●      Check out a book from the humor section of your library.

●      Hang out with funny people.

●      Tell a good joke or a funny story.

●      Just be silly, even at work.

●      Do activities you think are fun – maybe laughter yoga.

Understanding these five ways laughter helps your heart is just the beginning. Remember, laughter is an especially powerful and positive part of improving your overall physical, mental and – especially – heart health. Laughter costs nothing; you can do it while you’re doing almost anything else. It’s a small change that makes a big difference to your heart.

 

About the author

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. With 24,000 employees, UCHealth includes 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.