Laughter and a good sense of humor can help your heart and hypertension with no drug side-effects!

It’s no laughing matter that hypertension is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but researchers say instead of reaching for hypertensive meds, laughter may help significantly.

In the first study of its kind, cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, found that laughter and an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack. According to the study, people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.

“The old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart,” commented Dr. Michael Miller, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of the University’s Center for Preventive Cardiology and an associate professor of medicine. He added that “we don’t know yet why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack.”

In the study, Miller and colleagues compared the humor responses of 300 people. Half of the participants had either suffered a heart attack or had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. The other 150 were healthy, age-matched participants who did not have heart disease. People with heart disease were less likely to recognize humor or use it to get out of uncomfortable situations. They also laughed less in general, even in positive situations, and displayed more anger and hostility.

Miller explained that “the ability to laugh ― either naturally or as learned behavior may have important implications in societies such as the U.S. where heart disease remains the number one killer. According to the World Heart Federation (WHF) by 2030, an expected 23 million people will die from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) each year. The World Health Organization rates high blood pressure as one of the most important causes of premature death worldwide and by 2025 it is estimated that 1.56 billion adults will have the condition!

Miller recommends including laugher into our daily activities, just as we do with other heart-healthy and anti-hypertensive activities, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, exercising, not smoking and eating foods low in saturated fat and salt.

Perhaps doctors’ prescriptions for heart disease and high blood pressure patients should read: Watch 5 funny movies and google the best jokes or video clips of the week!

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