By Kevin Rayner
A team of Maryland medical researchers
found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less
likely to laugh in humorous situations than those with
"The old saying that laughter is the best
medicine definitely appears to be true when it comes to
protecting your heart," said Michael Miller, director of the
Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of
Maryland Medical Center.
It is uncertain, however, whether humor
helps prevent heart problems or if people with heart
problems tend to lose their senses of humor.
"That question would be more interesting,
but it would also be much harder to answer," said Dr. Rose
Marie Robertson, a Vanderbilt University cardiologist and
president of the American Heart Association.
The research was to be presented
Wednesday at a heart association conference in New Orleans.
The study of 300 people -- one-half of
whom had histories of heart problems -- used questionnaires
to gauge how healthy people and those with heart disease
differed in their responses to situations where humor was
The people with heart disease were much
less likely to even recognize humor. They also laughed less,
even in positive situations, and generally displayed more
anger and hostility than people with healthy hearts.
"The ability to laugh -- either naturally
or as learned behavior -- may have important implications in
societies such as the U.S., where heart disease remains the
No. 1 killer," Miller said.
Robertson said the Maryland research fits
into an area of growing interest among cardiologists: the
psychological side of heart disease. Most of that research,
however, has examined the effects of mental stress on the
human heart or the tendency of heart patients to develop
depression after surgery.
Very few studies have pondered the
reverse question: whether humor, or a pronounced absence of
stress, can reduce a person's risk of heart disease.
Robertson called the Maryland
researchers' line of questioning "a very interesting"
"I think what this suggests is that we
have to take our patients' psychological states more
seriously," she said.
- Kevin Rayner preaches for the Highland Church of Christ,
Tecumseh, OK. He may be contacted through the
congregation’s website: http://hcoct.org/