JUST recently, on television and even in newspapers are exciting news about the benefits of laughter to the over-all well being of the individual, both physically and mentally. The laughter gurus even went further to claim that the more raucous and belly-aching the laughter is, the better it is especially for the heart and the lungs. Of course, since time immemorial, the world has been told that "laughter is the best medicine '. Thus, whether the statement has literal and figurative value to it, some people took it with a grain of salt while the others took it at its face-value. But seriously now, is there indeed, an indubitable proof that, laughing can improve one's well-being?
Apparently, there is, and no less that a prominent cardiologist and researcher has the proof. Dr. Charalambos Vlachopoulos, heart specialist of the University of Athens. The Greek doctor investigated how lifestyle and its modifications could be used to help heart patient lower their risks of dying from a coronary event or a myocardial infarction. "We hypothesized that if an increase in cardiovascular risk due to stress or pessimism is mediated by alteration in the function of the aorta, then laughter- as the direct opposite of stress, pessimism, gloom- might prove a beneficial intervention.
The Athens study recruited healthy volunteers who did not have a family or personal history of cardiovascular or heart disease. On one occasion, the volunteers were exposed to 30 minutes of comedy film and in another occasion, they were presented with a blank screen where nothing was projected- the sham arm of the study. Measurements were taken before and after the viewings, in the form of carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWA) - which indicates the speed by which the pulse travels to the arterial tree - also a measure of the stiffness or loss of elasticity of the aorta or central artery because it is the biggest artery in the body. The PWV was determined by a non-invasive device called direct contact pulse sensors called Comprilor.
Results showed that for the people viewing the comedy, the PWV, was on an average, decreased by 0.39m/sec, compared to those undergoing the sham procedure. There were no statistically significant changes in the blood pressure and heart rate of the volunteers. In simpler terms, the pulse wave travelled faster in those people who were watching a comedy film and were laughing, than those exposed to the sham procedure. The findings correlate laughter with greater expansion of the aorta thus, faster and easier blood flow thru its distributing branches. The carotid arteries supply oxygen and nutrients to the face and brain while the femoral arteries supply the lower extremities and legs and foot.
Dr. Vlachopoulos said: "From this data, we anticipate that laughter and a positive mood could emerge as a novel treatment. Though it is unlikely that laughter can substitute fro the conventional usual drugs, it could have an adjunctive role in ameliorating or improving the status of the arterial tree so that blood flows faster and easier, bring to the almost 75 trillion cells life-giving oxygen and nutrients.
Cervantes made Don Quixote exclaim to his Dulcinea, "too much sanity is madness ". At the risk of being labeled crazy or lunatic, laugh out loud!
Next Week: The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolates