Can laughter help your heart?

Laughter may really be the best medicine.

To keep your heart healthy you should take your medication, watch your diet, and get five to ten minutes of laughter every day. That's what Jennifer Mieres, cardiologist and member of the WomenHeart Scientific Advisory Council, prescribes to her patients.

Research suggests that laughter can help your heart by decreasing stress hormones, reducing artery inflammation and increasing HDL, the "good" cholesterol.

How stress can damage your heart

Mental stress damages the protective lining of blood vessels, potentially causing inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries. And that can lead to a heart attack.

"If you have a lot of stress in your life, it causes your blood pressure to go up and your heart rate to go up. When you're laughing, you release good hormones that make your blood vessels open up. We've been promoting this for a long time," says cardiologist Annabelle Volgman, medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and member of the WomenHeart Scientific Advisory Council.

Relax, laugh, and enjoy your life

Dr. Volgman advises her patients to cope with stress by doing yoga, meditating, getting lots of physical activity and having fun. "I tell them to increase the activities that make them happier," she says. "Go watch a movie that makes you laugh. Go have fun with your girlfriends."

Whether it's listening to music or watching a funny TV show, the goal is to relax and enjoy yourself every day.

Turns out that laughter might actually be the best medicine.

"I was unaware that the initial symptoms I was experiencing were a heart attack."
Betsy A., I am ProHeart Community Member