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Laughter Still The Best Medicine: Watching a Funny Movie 'Good For Your Heart'

Watching a film that makes you laugh is good for your heart, according to a study.

Researchers found watching a movie or programme that produces laughter has a positive effect on vascular function and is opposite to that observed after watching a war or horror film that causes mental stress.

In the study volunteers watched segments of a funny film - such as There's Something About Mary starring Cameron Diaz - on one day and on another day watched the opening segment of the stressful war film Saving Private Ryan.

Lead investigator Dr Michael Miller from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the U.S. said that when the volunteers watched the stressful film, their blood vessel lining developed a potentially unhealthy response called vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow.

"We don't recommend that you laugh and not exercise, but we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system," said Dr. Michael Miller.

He said this finding confirms previous studies, which suggested there was a link between mental stress and the narrowing of blood vessels.

However, after watching the funny movie, the blood vessel lining expanded.

Overall, more than 300 measurements were made with a 30 to 50 per cent difference in blood vessel diameter between the laughter and mental stress phases.

Dr Miller said: 'The take-home message here is that laughter is great for your heart.

'The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium after laughing was consistent and similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic exercise of statin use.'

In another study, Dr Wei Jiang and colleagues at Duke University in North Carolina followed 1,005 heart failure patients and also tested them for depression.

Those with mild depression had a 44 percent greater risk of dying, Jiang told the meeting.

"This adverse association of depression and increased long-term mortality was independent of other factors, including age, marriage, cardiac function and the root cause of the heart failure," Jiang said in a statement.

"Approximately half of all patients with heart failure will die within five years of diagnosis, and we believe that our study appears to identify a group of these patients who are at a higher risk for dying."

Jiang said it is not clear why, but he said patients with depression tend not to exercise or take medications properly.

"Also, depressed patients tend to make unhealthy lifestyle choices in such areas as diet and smoking," she said.


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