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A good heart = 15 mins of laughter!
March 22, 2005
good laugh can help build healthy heart muscles!
It's hard to believe that watching Munnabhai MBBS or a David Dhawan potboiler can actually help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
But according to a study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Centre, USA, watching a funny movie has a healthy effect on blood vessel function.
On the other hand, watching mentally stressful movie can cause the lining of the blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow.
Says Michael Miller of the University in an online report: "Laughter offsets the impact of mental stress."
Miller presented the results of his study recently at the scientific session of the American College of Cardiology.
Dr S P Bijotra, vice chairperson, Department of Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here, New Delhi, says, "Humour is an essential part of psychotherapy treatment that we give heart patients. We advocate that five minutes of laughter is good enough to rejuvenate the body for 12 hours."
"The ability to laugh, either naturally or as learned behaviour, may have important implications for India, where heart disease remains the number one killer," says K K Agarwal, vice president, Heart Care Foundation of India.
"Humour therapy," says Dr Bijotra, "is used extensively in yoga and other alternative therapies. Joggers laughing heartily in parks most early mornings is a common sight.
"But more and more hospitals are waking up to the fact and even plan to have humour specialists and separate humour therapy departments."
Dr Agarwal says people with heart disease are less likely to recognise humour or use it to get out of uncomfortable situations. They generally laugh less, even in positive situations and display more anger and hostility.
He says mental stress is also associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining of our blood vessels.
This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholestrol build up in the coronary arteries and, ultimately, lead to heart attack.
In the Maryland study, researchers had a group of 20 healthy men and women watch two movies at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. They then measured the movies' effects on their blood vessels via ultrasound.
The results showed that blood flow was reduced in 14 out of 20 volunteers after watching movie clips that caused mental stress.
But beneficial blood vessel effects and relaxation were found in 19 of 20 volunteers watching the funny movie.
"We don't recommend that you do laugh and not exercise," says Miller, adding, "but we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is good for the vascular system."