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Laughter Is Good For Your Heart

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Updated April 20, 2006

It seems that the Republic of Korea, under pressure, decided to hold free and fair elections, U.S.-style. They decided to go all out: voter registration drives, canvasses, polls, high quality voting machines from the Chicago Voting Machine Company, the whole bit.

Anyhow, the campaigns were mounted, the elections held, the results tallied, and sure enough, the new President-elect of the Republic of Korea was Richard J. Daley.

That was a funny joke. Go ahead, laugh out loud. A new study from the University of Maryland Medical Center has shown that laughter, along with a healthy sense of humor is good for your heart. The researchers found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.

The study compared the humor responses of 300 people, 150 who had a history of heart disease either a heart attack or who had gone through a coronary artery bypass surgery. The other 150 participants were all healthy, age-matched adults who were free of heart disease.

"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. 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," says Michael Miller, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Miller is also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The participants in the study completed 2 questionnaires. The first measured the participants humor response in different situations. The second questionnaire had true/false false questions that measure anger and hostility.

The results of the study showed that people with heart disease are less likely to laugh in uncomfortable situations and were overall less likely to recognize humor. A Democrat with heart disease might be less likely to see the humor in my joke at the beginning of this feature than a healthy Democrat. Overall the participants with heart disease laughed less than the healthy participants, even in positive situations. Dr. Miller speculates that physicians may one day be advising their patients to eat right, exercise and laugh a few times every day.

This study really shows the importance of being able to manage stress in our lives as a way of improving our health. Unrelieved stress can affect our heart, our blood pressure and our intestinal system. Road rage has caused devastating accidents and aggression on our roads. So the next time an e-mail joke shows up in your inbox, take some time to read it and enjoy it, the time you spend laughing could add years to your life.

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