Friday, January 20, 2006

Exercise your funny bone to benefit heart

A new study shows that laughter increases vascular blood flow, proving right the old adage that laughter is the best medicine.

Measurements were taken of the brachial artery in the arm while subjects watched funny movies. Researchers discovered a 22 percent increase in blood flow when laughing, an amount equivalent to that which results from light exercise or drugs that lower cholesterol.

On the other hand, watching Saving Private Ryan decreased blood flow by as much as angry memories or mental calculations, 35%. Researchers noted that, " at the very least, laughter on a regular basis, will undo some of the excess stress we face in our everyday lives. Patients at risk for cardiovascular disease should loosen up a bit."

Exactly why laughing might give a jolt to the circulation isn't clear. It's possible that it counters the effects that stress hormones can have on blood vessel function. In addition, laughter may spur the body's production of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps dilate blood vessels.

Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system," said Dr. Michael Miller of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

It's time to laugh! Once here, click on "Play Video." It's a classic and still funny. (As usual, a broadband connection is a must.)

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