Laughter as the best medicine?
Look on the lighter side: turns out a moment of light-hearted laughter can do more than lift your spirits. A recent study shows that laughter may help protect you from heart disease, which gives a lot more weight to the saying "laughter is the best medicine."
Cardiologists from the University of Maryland Medical Centre found that people with heart disease were 40 per cent less likely to laugh in given situations compared to people without heart disease of the same age. The researchers measured responses from 300 people, 150 of whom did not have heart disease and 150 of whom had a history with heart attacks or coronary artery bypass surgery. The questionnaires measured how often or little they laughed as well as their anger and hostility reactions.
"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," says Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Centre.
"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 a 2005 study, Miller measured the blood levels of 20 volunteers who watched both a sad movie and a funny movie. He found that blood vessel function improves with laughter. After watching Saving Private Ryan, 14 of the 20 volunteers' blood flow was restricted. After King Pin, the average blood flow of the group increased by 22 per cent.
One of the most popular proponents of "laughter is the best medicine" is Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams, popularized in the film Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams. Dr. Adams brings the idea of treating patients with humour and compassion as opposed to the clinical, impersonal feeling that can be common with physicians.
Robin Williams' tragic and sudden passing this week can serve as a reminder to treasure the joyful moments around us. For years, he has brought siblings, families, and friends together with his films and hours of laughter with his impersonations, jokes, and interviews.
In an online Q&A, Williams said the key to life was "family and friends. (And a good pet. For pure loyalty there is nothing like a pug)." He also said the most valuable lessons he had ever learned was "that every moment in life is precious" and not to miss "the gifts of your relationships with others."
So grab a couple movies this weekend and enjoy a marathon and some good laughs with your family or friends! (Our favourites are Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, and, of course, who could forget Flubber?)