Laughter is contagious, far more than the common cold. Infectious giggling is irresistible, and cracking-up at your kids’ silly joke is a workout for your abdominals as much as your heart. While you’re wiping the tears off your cheeks from that joke, you’re doing something else that’s good for your heart; you’re getting an attitude adjustment. Laughter and attitude are the fruits and vegetables for the heart; but don’t give up your broccoli for a belly laugh, all are priceless medicines for your heart and requires no prescription.
Your heart needs more than a lap around the block to stay fit, and most of us over forty could use a serious attitude adjustment along with a good laugh to handle the day-to-day demands of work and family. The University of Maryland Medical Center conducted a groundbreaking study on laughter and heart disease. They found those people with heart disease were a heart-pounding forty percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to a group of the same age without heart disease. Who would have thought all those times our parents scolded us for giggling in the church pew we were actually improving our tiny tickers?
Laughing is the opening act to developing a positive attitude. When our attitude shifts, we activate the feel-good enzymes in our body and by doing so we increase our capacity to fight disease, including heart disease. Recent studies performed by neurologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a link between the body’s immune system and a positive attitude. What does that mean? Happy people heal faster. Here’s how: The brain registers the negative stuff on the right side while the left side registers the positive. Researchers tracked the antibody levels in a group of volunteers and what they found after six months put a smile on everyone’s face. Those volunteers with more activity in the left side of their brain had more antibodies and a stronger immune response, making them less susceptible to illness. And one of the easiest ways to activate your feel-good enzymes — smile. Smiling induces others to smile, the brain sends a signal to the rest of your body, and the cause and effect is a positive response throughout your entire body – all good stuff for living a long and lively life.
Laughter and positive thinking relaxes the body and stimulates the immune system. It also lowers blood pressure and improves brain functions. When we feel better, we think more clearly, and are more likely to handle daily stresses without blowing our top or eating a sleeve of Oreos. So lighten up, and the next time someone cuts you off on the freeway, just chuckle, and keep your fingers on the stirring wheel and give them The Smile.
Tips on Keeping Your Heart Healthy
The heart healthy check list: lower your cholesterol and increase your exercise, eat more green leafy vegetables and less sugar, eat fresh fish at least twice a week, limit red meat to 3 times per month, do not smoke, and manage your stress. And while you’re at it, get 7 hours of sleep a night (no, it’s not a joke), drink eight-8oz glasses of water a day and when you’re not running to the bathroom, take 5 to meditate (perhaps you could multi-task while in the WC). It’s a tall order, but even if you do just half, you will be better able to resist illness, keep your weight down and maintain a healthy heart.