it is about how laughter effects your body and heart
Is laughter the best medicine? Could it possibly beat out such drugs as Tylenol, Midol, and Aspirin? Perhaps. Humour itself can get you through that big dinner date, troubles with your love life or times when stress build-up is through the roof. For example if your printer cuts out halfway through your big paper at two in the morning it is due and your are out of tonner and paper and can’t find a pen. Laughing can “change and lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones,” says Lee Berk, who has a D.P.H in psychoneuroimmunology. (Sherrill Clarke, Essence, March 2002) Simply it can even take your mind off your stubbed toe. How? Easy; somebody tells you a joke, you laugh, your heart relaxes, your blood pressure goes down, your stress decreases, your brain has more room to focus on other things, your discover super powers you never had before, leap a tall building and save a male in distress. Well, with the slight exaggerations aside humour does improve your sprit and health. Since high stress has been known to cause high blood pressure thus can affect the heart itself, making you at even a higher risk of a heart attack. Even though laughter has been proven through Berk’s and many other’s experiments that it can lower blood pressure, reduce chance of heart attacks and heart disease it also allows the release of a natural pain killer produced by the body called endorphins. To answer the question; Is laughter the best medicine you must look at the different ways it can effect you. It can decrease chances of heart attacks, decrease the risk of getting heart disease, releases endorphins, lowers blood pressure, lower your stress, help in the fight against cancer, help with the brain, and just be used as a replacement feeling.
The word humour is defined as “the quality of being laughable or comical” or as “a state of mind, mood, spirit”. However the word was derived from its root word “umor”. “Umor” means liquid or fluid. Therefore humour is the ability to express flowing body, emotions and spirit. This flowing of emotions, body and spirit seems to have its own effect on the heart in a study done by the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Centre. Michael Miller says “The old axiom that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ appears to hold true when it comes to protecting your heart.” (American Heart Org. Dec. 2000) This study comes at a good time because a new report from the American Heart Association has just come out about American’s hearts. More than fifty-eight million Americans suffer from at least one type of cardiovascular disease. Out of that fifty-eight million people 960 000 of them are dying each year, making heart disease the number one killer of America. The study consisted of three hundred people. “Half of whom had histories of heart problems.” (Johnson Publishing Co, Dec. 2000) Where as the other half were perfectly healthy people. Each participant was given a list of 21 questions each multiple choice with 5 possible answers to choice from.
Example of questions: 1) If you arrived at a party and found someone else wearing a piece of clothing identical to yours, would you (a) not find it particularly amusing, (b) be amused but not show it outwardly, (c) smile, (d) laugh, (e) laugh heartily?
2) During a day when you have no responsibilities or engagements, and you decide to do something you really enjoy with friend, would your humour response be (a) not much smiling or laughter, (b) smiling occasionally but not laughing aloud, (c) smiling frequently and laughing from time to time, (d) laughing aloud frequently, (e) laughing heartily much of the time? (American Heart Org. Dec. 2000)
Each question earned points according to the addition of the amounts of positive answers from each question. The highest possible score was 105, lowest 21. From the study it was shown that any score totalling about 50 had a large deduction in their risk of heart disease. The main difference that was noticed between the two halves was that the side with the history of heart disease weren’t able to recognized humour, had trouble laughing at any positive situation, and weren’t able to produce humour. “We don’t know why laughing protects the heart, but we do know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels,” says Miller, “This can cause as series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries – and ultimately to a heart attack.” (Johnson Publishing Co, Dec. 2000) Miller’s theory that comes from this study in Baltimore is the yet undefined theory of “endothelial protectants” (American Heart Org. Dec. 2000) His last words are “Because we know of many more factors that contribute to heart disease than factors that protect against it, the ability to laugh – either naturally or as learned behaviour – may have important implications in certain societies such as the United States, where heart disease remains the number one killer.” (Johnson Publishing Co, Dec. 2000)
Stress is a major part of any person’s life in our world today. Stress was not like this 100 years ago. However, the good news is that there is a way to help relive stress. In fact a new study showed that you could have stress you didn’t even know you had. One way they tested this was by giving people the “red, green, blue” test. “Words such as ‘red’, ‘green’ and ‘blue’ are displayed on a computer screen. The background is in one color, the letters themselves are written in another, often a color not matching the word, and sometimes-other distracting colors are thrown on screen. The colors and words change. ‘You are told to identify the color in the written word.” Said Diane Becker of Johns Hopkins University. “It is very confusing. If you don’t get it correct, it sends you a message that says ‘wrong’,’ she added.” (MSNBC Reuters Limited November 2003) Laugh! Lee Berk, who is an associate professor at Loma Linda University of Medicine, has done controlled studies to show that laughing and the experience of laughter lowers serum cortisol levels. When the serum cortisol levels are lowered the amount of the activated T lymphocytes increase. This then increase the amount of natural killer cells, which then helps increase the number of T cells that has helper/suppresser receptors. With the amount of T lymphocytes increased, the natural killer cells increased, and the T cells increased, the immunosuppressive effects of stress are up-set. The rapidly expanding field of Psychoneuroimmunology plays a big part in this research. Psychoneuroimmunology defines the communication links and relationships with out immune response and our emotional experience. For example it studies the immune response of stress and heart disease and the emotional experience of laughter to see how they are related and can help each other out. In this case laughter seems to lower stress and the risk of heart disease. This is all mediated by the neurological system. Laughter affects (lowers) the amounts of cortisol. Cortisol is produce from stress. During stress the adrenal gland releases corticosteroids. The corticosteroids are quickly turned into cortisol in the blood stream. The high levels of corticosteroids have an immunosuppressive effect. Laughter then goes and lowers the cortisol levels to end up helping make the immune system stronger. Janice and Ronald Glaser of Ohio State University School of Medicine completed another monitored study. They looked at the cellular immunity response pattern of medical students prior to examinations. They showed a reduction in the amount of helper T cells as well as a lowered activity of the natural killer cells during the stressful moments right before the examinations. Also Locke at Harvard showed that the decrease of the activity of natural killer cells during periods of increased life changes (accompanied by severe emotional disturbance). However, subjects that have constant patterns of life change and minor emotional disturbances had their nature killer cells’ activity remain normal. Plus in 1987 Irwin of VA Medical Center in San Diego saw that nature killer cells decrease during a depressive reaction to a certain life change. Dr. Berk summarizes his ideas in this final quote.
“Essentially, we found that mirthful laughter serves to modulate specific immune system components. By modulate, we mean that chemicals released during the emotional experience of mirth can connect to receptors on the surface of the immune cells. This connection stimulates a change in the molecular machinery inside the cell. Specific molecules known as immunoregulators are like plus those fit into receptors and subsequently increase or decrease the immune cell activity. One metaphor for modulation of immune activity is the conductor of an orchestra. Although the conductor does not actually play an instrument, he influences the tempo, harmony and volume of the music produced by the orchestra. Mirthful laughter would be like the conductor who enhances sonic integration and brings out melodious harmony. Whereas distressful emotions would be like the conductor who brings harsh, disharmonious sounds. Emotions, like a conductor, modulate the activity and effectiveness of the immune cells although it does not directly protect the body from insult or infection.” (Lee Berk 1994)
T cells are important to the body and immune system. There are four different types of T cells: cytotoxin T cells (natural killer cells), helper T cells, memory T cells, and suppressor T cells. First off the Cytotoxic T cells “attack and destroy antigen-bearing cells, such as virus-infected or cancer cells.” (Sylvia S. Mader, Inquiry into Life, 1994) Next the Helper T cells “regulate immunity by enhancing the response of other immune cells.” (Sylvia S. Mader, Inquiry into Life, 1994) When this helper T cell touches or is exposed to an antigen they become bigger and secrete lymphokines. Lymphokines are message proteins, which stimulate the helper T cells to clone and allowing other immune cells to do what they do. After the helper T cell divides “the clone contains suppressor T cells and memory T cells. Once there is a sufficient number of suppressor T cells, the immune response ceases.” (Sylvia S. Mader, Inquiry into Life, 1994) Even after the suppressor cells are used up the memory cells stay in the blood for a long time. This is so that in case the same virus comes back the memory cells no who to destroy it. T cells including natural killer cells are both connected to the immune system and the affects of laughing. This is try to help explain the relation between the immune system and laughing and how laughing can even help the chance that you’ll get cancer.
Lee Berk’s experiment was to show how humour affects cancer, as well as how it can reduce the chances of getting it without drugs and such. Berk’s experiment consisted of a group of men that watched hilarious movies. These men’s white blood cell activity increases after watching the funny movies. This helps because the white blood cells are involved in attacking tumour cells and boost immune-system activity. (Sherrill Clarke, Essence, March 2002) The increase of white blood cell activity is linked to the increase of activity of natural killer cells. These nature killer cells are part of the immune system. These cells attack different cells, both viral and cancerous cells. An added bonus is that unlike chemotherapy these nature killer cells don’t need to be sensitized from being lethal. With the immune system in proper order because of the lowering of cortisol levels, the natural killer cells can destroy the abnormal cells of the ever-mutating cells in the human body.
Receptor sites are important as a communication link between the brain and the immune system. Emotions, such as laughter, can trigger the neurons in the brain to release neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters enter the blood stream and go to receptor sites on the surface of immune cells. As this occurs the cells metabolic activity can change either positively or negatively. Many different cells within the body have many different receptor sites on their surface.