At a recent press conference at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2011 Congress titled “Don’t worry, be happy,” it was highlighted that anger and job stress are linked to higher cardiovascular event rates, and that laughter and cognitive behavior therapy can lower the risk. Michael O’Riordan has reported on the role of laughter, positive thinking, anger, and job stress on developing cardiovascular events in the article “Laughter and Therapy Could Go a Long Way for the Heart,” for Medscape. This report is a review of this Medscape article.
The lead investigator for this study, Dr Michael Miller, who is associated with the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, has said that the purpose of this study was to examine the link between positive emotional health which is achieved through laughter and the subsequent effect on the vasculature. Miller said during a press conference “We want to maintain good vascular health, and we do that by maintaining a good diet and good regular physical activity, but it turns out that emotions also play an important role here.”
The researchers for this study took an interesting approach of showing study participants various types of emotionally provocative movies to test for the effects of humorous and stressful movies on endothelial function. The participants were shown the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, which is an intense 15-minute segment that takes place June 6, 1944 and shows Allied forces storming the beach of Normandy. Participants were also shown segments of the comedies There’s Something about Mary, Shallow Hal, and Kingpin.
Endothelial function was measured after each movie. Blood vessels constricted by as much as 30% to 50% after watching the scene from Saving Private Ryan, whereas vasodilation occurred when investigators measured vascular function in subjects watching the comedies. It was also observed that vasoconstriction and vasodilation can occur rapidly, with the funny movies reversing blood-vessel contraction which occurred after watching the stressful D-Day scene. In another study presented at this meeting Dr Tea Lallukka of the University of Helsinki, Finland made the observation that public-sector individuals who work more than three hours overtime per day were at an increased risk of coronary heart disease in comparison with those who worked no overtime.
In a separate study Dr Franco Bonaguidi of the Institute of Clinical Physiology in Pisa, Italy found that 78.5% of patients who did not have an angry-personality profile were free from a recurrent infarction in comparison to 57.4% of patients with angry personalities assessed by psychological inventory testing. And Dr Barbara Murphy of the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia presented data showing that cognitive behavior therapy and motivational interviewing can reduce depression in acute-MI patients. This is significant because depressed individuals generally do do so well after a cardiac event because they are not motivated to take care of themselves well. The bottom line appears to be laughter and a positive attitude can be good medicine.
Mandel News Service