Keep your heart happy, keep your heart healthy

June 5, 2008 by  

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You’ve heard it before. “Laughter is the best medicine.” Especially for heart disease and stroke.

Here are the latest research results showing the positive emotions have positive effects on the your heart and vascular system.

“Depression and negative emotions seem to worsen cardiac health, whereas a good laugh might improve blood vessel function” according to a recent article in Nature News.

Study # 1:

The above statement is based on a study by Canadian researchers who followed up 800 patients with stable heart disease. Of these, 100 individuals also suffered from depression or anxiety. After a follow up period of 2 years, the researchers report the following results:

“During the course of the study, 26% of the group with depression experienced a major repeat cardiac event, including an emergency bypass surgery or sudden death from a heart attack. By comparison, 13% of the subjects who did not suffer from these psychiatric conditions experienced such cardiac events.”

Study # 2:

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine showed volunteers two types of films: funny or emotionally disturbing.

Those who watched the emotionally disturbing movies had vasoconstriction and reduced blood flow. Films which induced laughter had the opposite effect – the volunteers who viewed them had vasodilation and increased blood flow.

Stressful emotions caused a 35% reduction in the blood flow. However, laughter increased it by about 22%.

It seems that laughter causes the endothelium, the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate.

The endothelium is the first line in the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, so, given the results of our study, it is conceivable that laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Study # 3:

A UK study by researchers at University College London shows that people with a positive mental attitude are less likely to suffer from heart disease. These individuals tend to react differently to stress compared to their counterparts with less positive outlook. It seems that happy people use a different part of the nervous system than depressed individuals in times of stress. This part of the brain slows down their heart rate and helps them to recover from stress more quickly.

Researchers also observed that an important factor in heart disease is inflammation. People experiencing negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and grief have high levels of the inflammatory proteins cytokines. These emotions seem to alter blood pressure and heart rate, thereby increasing cytokine production and resulting in inflammation.

So smile, relax, and enjoy life. Remember: a happy heart will live longer.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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