beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

To find a doctor, call 800-667-5356 or click below:

Find a Doctor

Request an Appointment

left banner
right banner
Smaller Larger

A Funny Thing About Your Health

How laughter can improve your cardiovascular system

Nurse: Doctor, there is an invisible man in your waiting room.
Doctor: Tell him I can't see him now.

It can't replace the real deal, but just like medicine, laughter can improve the quality of your health - especially when it comes to your cardiovascular system. In two studies conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), laughter was found to have a positive effect not only on mood, but on vascular and heart health as well.

In the first study, UMMC researchers measured the physical effects of laughter on blood vessels. Researchers showed film clips from comedies and dramas to a group of 20 healthy male and female volunteers and measured the involuntary response of their blood vessels as they viewed the scenes. After the volunteers viewed the laugh-provoking movie segments, the researchers discovered that the tissue within blood vessels, known as the endothelium, expanded, increasing blood flow between vessels. The change was similar to the benefit seen after aerobic exercise.

Mark C. Wyers, MD"The interior of blood vessels is where we first begin to see signs of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, so any activity that encourages a healthy passage of blood through the vascular system is worth noting," said Mark C. Wyers MD, a vascular surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Cardiovascular Institute. "Regular doses of laughter, along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, are all part of a lifestyle that promotes optimal health for the body, mind and heart."

In the second study, researchers administered a questionnaire to 300 participants to gauge laughter responses to various situations. Out of the 300 recruited for the study, half had previously undergone heart surgery or were heart attack survivors, while the other half had no signs of heart disease.

Participants reacted to scenarios, such as showing up to a party in the same hat as another attendee or having water spilled on them at a restaurant. Using the questionnaire responses, researchers found that participants without heart troubles were 60 percent more likely to respond with laughter to the situations presented.

Speaking of situations …

A man visited his doctor and told him that he had not been feeling well lately. The doctor examined the man, left the room, and came back with three different bottles of pills.

The doctor said, "Take the white pill with a large glass of water in the morning. Take the brown pill with a large glass of water at midday. Then take the blue pill with another big glass of water after dinner."

"That seems like a lot of medication, Doctor," said the man. "Can you tell me what's wrong?"

"Yes," replied the doctor, "you're not drinking enough water."

The bottom line? Let yourself laugh. Not only will you feel better in the moment, but the residual benefits could improve your cardiovascular health - a happiness felt head to toe.

A man walks into a doctor's office. He has a cucumber up his nose, a carrot in his left ear and a banana in his right ear.

"What's the matter with me?" he asks the doctor.

The doctor replies, "You're not eating properly."

Share a Laugh

Give the gift of laughter to a friend or loved one. In this issue of Heartmail, send the jokes from this article to a friend with this interactive feature .

Got a joke of your own? We want to hear it! E-mail Heartmail your family-friendly jokes. Who knows - they may turn up in Heartmail!

Posted October 2011

Contact Information

CardioVascular Institute at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215