Laughter is (almost) the Best Medicine

Laughing is linked to some surprising health benefits. It's believed that regular laughter can reduce heart disease risk, lower artery inflammation and even lower cholesterol levels. 

As the old saying goes, 'laughter is the best medicine'. According to some research, this may be true. A daily chuckle could help your heart in a variety of ways.

A 2016 study of people aged 65 and over found that daily laughter is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. Participants in this study were asked about their medical history as well as how often they laughed. The results of this study found that people that never laughed, or seldom laughed, were 1.2 times more likely to have cardiovascular disease. They were also 1.6 times more likely to have experienced a stroke1. The researchers could not say with certainty that laughter is behind these remarkable improvements in health. However, we do know that laughing causes our body to release feel-good hormones like serotonin, which may decrease a person's risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack2.

Although it's not immediately obvious, our mood and our cholesterol levels are linked with each other. The amount of HDL Cholesterol, also known as the 'good' cholesterol, in our blood may be boosted by laughter according to some limited research3. Laughter could be especially useful for people with diabetes, who often have low levels of HDL cholesterol in their blood. These results may not be achievable with a quick chuckle or chortle as only joyous, side-splitting laughter was shown to affect cholesterol levels.

The act of laughing may also help to lower inflammation in the arteries and veins. These vitally important blood vessels carry blood around our body, ensuring that each of our cells has a fresh supply the oxygen-rich blood we need to survive. When blood vessels become inflamed, they get narrower and if the blood vessels that supply an organ are inflamed, serious illnesses can occur4.

A 2009 study hypothesized that laughter may lead to more nitric oxide being released into our bloodstream. Researchers found that laughter increased the amount of vasodilation (relaxing of the blood vessels) by 22%. This result is equivalent to the amount of vasodilation associated with taking statins or doing aerobic exercise5. Laughing isn't the only way to increase the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Eating foods rich in antioxidants like fruits, dark chocolate and garlic can also boost nitric oxide levels.