Rx for the Heart: A Good Belly Laugh
No joke! Laughter may be the best medicine after all
By Samuel Greengard
Special to MSN
Heart disease is no laughing matter. Every year, nearly 1 million Americans die from some form of cardiovascular disease and about 62 million Americans suffer from a heart-related condition such as coronary heart disease or high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. However, if researchers have their way, many of these individuals will soon have the last laugh.
In March, Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, reported that laughter pumps up heart health. "We are learning that there is a lot closer heart-mind-body link than previously understood," he says. "Researchers have scrutinized negative stressors on the heart — depression, hostility and bereavement, for example — but haven't looked as closely at positive influences."
That's changing. Miller, who examined 20 healthy volunteers, looked at how blood vessels react when participants watched movie clips that were either humorous (such as "King Pin") or stressful (such as the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan"). He found that blood flow increased by an average of 22 percent in 19 of the 20 participants when they laughed, and decreased by 35 percent in 14 of the 20 participants when they tensed up. A previous study Miller conducted in 2000 found that those with heart disease are less likely to find everyday situations funny — such as someone spilling a drink on them at a restaurant.
Laughter, the best medicine
Miller's prescription? "Pop a funny movie into the DVD player, go to a comedy club, get together with a group of people or engage in some other activity that makes you laugh," he says. "It can be inexpensive and remarkably simple to do." Unfortunately, in today's frenetic society, where enjoyable activities often take a back seat to work and getting the kids to soccer practice, it's easier said than done. Yet, "even if it's less than 15 minutes a day, laughter has a positive affect on the body," Miller says.
In fact, a daily dose of The Three Stooges or the newspaper comic section can help the heart as well as the entire body. In the 1990s, Lee Berk, an associate research professor for pathology and human anatomy at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, Calif., conducted several studies that showed laughter improves the body's immune system by reducing adrenaline, a hormone that boosts the heart rate. Although adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) is crucial in certain situations, chronically high levels can wreak havoc with internal organs, including the heart.
事实上，每天一个剂量的The Three Stooges（三个三个臭皮匠，搞笑电影名）或者报纸中幽默版，能帮助这个心脏以及整个身体。在90年代，位于加州的Loma Linda市的Loma Linda大学的病理学和人类解剖学的副教授Lee Berk带领了几个研究，显示笑通过减少肾上腺素提高身体的免疫系统，肾上腺素是一种荷尔蒙能促进心率。尽管，在某些情况肾上腺素是至关重要的，长期维持高水平的肾上腺素能够对内脏产生破坏，包括对心脏。
What's more, "Laughter increases the production of natural ‘killer cells' that go after virally infected cells and tumor cells," Berk says. "The reality is that when you remove distress and introduce eustress — laughter, medication, prayer, music and other enjoyable activities — our biology undergoes fundamental changes. We have an apothecary sitting on our shoulders that allows us to do the same thing that many pharmaceutical drugs do without the expense and side effects."
Rx: A good belly laugh
Unfortunately, modern medicine has focused almost exclusively on "treatment" instead of "prevention," Berk says. A few individuals, such as former Saturday Review magazine editor Norman Cousins, realized as early as the 1960s that laughter truly is the best medicine. When he found himself afflicted with debilitating arthritic condition that causes severe pain, he began watching a steady dose of funny movies. He made a dramatic recovery and chronicled the experience in his 1979 best-selling book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration.
Berk说，不幸地是现代的医学几乎只专注治疗而不是预防。少数个别人，例如《星期六评论杂志》的前主编Norman Cousins, 早在60年代就认识到，笑是真正最好的药。当他发现自己得了严重的关节炎病引起剧烈疼痛而变是虚弱不堪的时候，他开始观看一系列的幽默电影。他戏剧性地恢复健康，并他的体验编入1979最畅销的书中，从病人的角度对疾病的剖析：对于治疗和再生的思考。
Both Miller and Berk say that laughter is not a substitute for moderate exercise, good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle. However, it is increasingly clear that those who want a healthy heart should march to the beat of laughter. "It's an area of health care that has been generally overlooked," Miller says. "A good belly laugh should be a part of everyone's daily life."
Samuel Greengard is a writer specializing in health, business and technology and past president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
- 1F 薇风吹过 2009-07-12 02:01:09