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 Post subject: Happiness, laughter and love protect you from heart disease
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 27, 2005 1:54 am 
A laugh a day
Happiness, laughter and love protect you from heart disease

"People who feel lonely are many times more likely to get heart disease" -Prof. Dean Ornish, Heart specialist (2005)

by Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha

I was intrigued to read an article in a medical journal the other day about a recent research study done at the University of Maryland medical school.

The researcher, Dr. Michael Miller, got a group of subjects to watch a funny movie for 15 minutes. Measuring the blood flow in their peripheral arteries, he found that this resulted in relaxation of these arteries and increase of blood flow for as long as 45 minutes afterwards — an increase that was comparable to the effects of aerobic exercise! He now recommends at least 15 minutes of hearty laughter every day as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Miller’s study is one of several that is making doctors realise that jogging every day and taking three different blood pressure lowering tablets are not the sole remedy for preventing heart disease. Now don’t get me wrong — I am not for a moment advocating that you stop going for your daily walk, throw all your tablets into the kunu-baaldiya and simply spend your time seated laughing uproariously in your haansi-putuwa. The message I am trying to get across today is that looking after your emotions is as important as looking after your blood pressure — in fact it may be one of the best ways of looking after your blood pressure.

Another research study on a group of 209 women, by a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, showed that the most optimistic ones (optimism being measured by standard psychological tests) had very little thickening in the carotid arteries supplying the brain when compared to those who scored low on the optimism test. And more and more research studies these days are revealing that happiness, laughter and the love of friends are as important in protecting you from heart disease as are keeping your cholesterol under control and reducing the clottability of your blood.

Medical science at the beginning of the 21st century has found out a lot about heart disease — some of the factors that can cause it, many of the things that place a person at risk of developing it, and plenty of effective medications and surgical techniques that can prevent us succumbing to premature heart attacks and strokes. But these do not provide the whole picture. Why is it that some folk do all the correct things and yet end up with a heart attack, while others eat all the butter, pork curry and coconut oil that they want, become as fat as the Queen of Tonga — and live to a ripe old age with nary a touch of angina?

Good genes certainly have a lot to do with longevity — but we are realising more and more that one’s emotional health and outlook on life have a great influence on our state of health. Loneliness, depression and hostility have as much of a role in the development and progression of heart disease as do our biochemistry and lipid levels.

"Science" says Prof. Dean Ornish, the American cardiologist who pioneered a successful lifestyle programme to reverse heart disease, "is documenting the healing values of love, community, compassion and service — values that are part of almost all spiritual traditions. Even when you eat right, exercise properly and avoid smoking, loneliness increases your risk of early death."

So if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure or diabetes, and your doctor has prescribed medications for you, please continue to take these medications.

But don’t forget to spend some time watching a funny movie, sitting (with or without a drink) and putting a chat on non-aggressive topics with your family and friends, and laughing at the antics of some of our politicians. It will all be good medicine.

I would even go so far as to say that laughter is still one of the best forms of medicine.

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