by Allen Klein


"A light heart lives longer."

-- Shakespeare

Research has long associated anger and hostility with increased coronary-heart disease risk. Now, a recent study from cardiologists at the University of Maryland, has shown that laughter may have a beneficial effect on the heart.

They found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to use or see humor in situations than those without heart problems. Those with heart disorders said they don't laugh as much and are more angry and hostile than their healthy counterparts.

It is still not clear from this study how laughter can directly help the heart but other studies have shown that laughter is beneficial for every system in the body.

For example, when you have a good hearty laugh, your heart- rate and your blood pressure go up, then dip below normal when you stop laughing. In other words, your heart is getting a workout similar to aerobic exercise.

Laughing is also good for your respiratory system. After a really good laugh, you frequently have to take in a big breath of air. And, laughter is a great muscle relaxer. How many times have you laughed so hard that you could hardly get out of your chair?

Finally, and perhaps the reason it might be good for a healthy heart, laughter decreases the secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone.

So now that we know that laughter is good for our heart, how can we get more of it into our lives? Simple. Just look for it. It is all around. Not too long ago, for example, I saw a sign in the Laundromat which said: "When the machine stops remove all your clothing." You know what? I did!

Also, don't forget to poke fun at yourself once in awhile. It's low risk and if you don't laugh at your self-directed kidding, maybe it's a sign that you are taking yourself too seriously. I, for example, have very little hair on my head. I tell people, "I'm a former expert on how to cure baldness."

Finally, learn to laugh from someone else. My mom, who is ninety-years-old, is one of the people who help me laugh these days. She recently told me about the experience she had with a van service which takes her back and forth from her doctor's appointments.

One day, she was the last patient in the doctor's office. It was six o'clock and the van did not show up to take her home. The doctor informed her that she could not wait in the his office because he had a meeting to attend. He said he would take her downstairs to a pizza place next door where she could wait for the van. He would even call them and make sure they were coming.

When the van still didn't show up, my mom went over to the counter and asked the guy making the pizza if they deliver. "Of course, we do," he replied. "What would you like?" "I'd like a mushroom pizza," she said, "and I'd like to go with it!"

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2004 Allen Klein. All Rights Reserved.