Laughter is great medicine...it's not just a platitude. Nor should this come as a surprise, since previous studies regarding laughter have noted its impact on cardiovascular risk, blood pressure and stress. The latest finding is that it even can lower cholesterol.
In research presented at the 2009 meeting of The American Physiological Society, 20 high-risk diabetic patients who had both hypertension and high cholesterol were divided into two groups. One group received standard pharmaceutical treatments for diabetes (metformin, TZD and glipizide), hypertension (ACE inhibitors) and high cholesterol (statin drugs), while the second group received the same medication, but also were instructed to watch 30 minutes a day of humorous videos. Since different people find different things funny, participants were able to select their own.
Laughing all the way to good health
By the end of the second month, the benefits were already evident. By the end of one year, the laughter group had increased their "good" cholesterol by 26% (compared with 3% for the control group) while also decreasing C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, by 66% (versus 26% in the control group). In addition, over the course of the year-long study, only one patient in the laughter group suffered a heart attack-compared with three in the control group.
"The benefits we see with laughter are very similar to what we see with moderate exercise," noted researchers Lee Berk, DrPH, of Loma Linda University and Stanley Tan, MD, PhD, of Oak Crest Research Institute. Dr. Berk has even coined a term-Laughercise-to describe the benefits of therapeutic laughter. This newest finding builds upon previous research by the same team in which laughter was found to boost blood flow to the heart. Dr. Berk said that further studies are planned to determine how long this positive effect will last.
Healing power of laughter
Dr. Berk said that "it's clear that the repetitive use of laughter produces physiological changes that lower stress hormones, increase endorphins, and-in our studies-lower risk factors for heart disease, including inflammation and cholesterol."
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