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Psychologist says laugh more for a healthier heart

February is Heart Health Month and doctors said laughing more could make your heart healthier.

KRCG spoke with SSM Health Medical Group Psychologist Dr. Laurel Kramer about the benefits of incorporating more laughter and smiles into your daily life. She explained that laughing can be a powerful weapon in the fight against heart disease, because laughter can boost your immune system and decrease inflammation.

"It changes the inner lining of our vessels called the endothelium. So that plaques, and the sticky stuffs that builds up in our vessels is reduced," she said.

Dr. Kramer said laughing doesn’t just make you feel good; it makes your heart work better. "How it works is when we laugh, we release these really good feeling chemicals,” she said. “And it enlarges our vessels so we get more blood flow and more oxygen because we breathe in more air when we laugh."

Even so, Dr. Kramer said she realizes it's not always easy for adults to let loose. "Healthy children have been studied and have been found to laugh approximately 400 times per day,” she said. “The average adult, when you're not depressed, stressed, overly anxious, all those things... They only laugh 15 times per day."

Dr. Kramer said there's still hope for any grown-ups that might feel a little uptight. She shared three tips for how anyone can use laughter to stay young and healthy at heart.

First, she said to try to fake a smile or laughter if you’re not feeling up to cracking an actual grin. "What happens is when you smile just a fake smile, like this, or hold a pencil between your teeth, which actually does the same muscles on your face, those muscles are connected to your brain in a way that releases endorphins," she said.

She also suggested watching funny videos on Youtube.

"Look for funny animals. Or if animals aren't your thing, look for funny children's videos,” she said. “Really, just anything that gets you to relax and smile a little bit.”

Dr. Kramer said the positive effects of laughing can last anywhere from 45 minutes to three days.

This February, Dr. Kramer is encouraging everyone to take life a little bit more lightheartedly – she said your heart may just thank you for it.

Tune in to KRCG 13 at 5 p.m. Friday, February 17 for our next Family First episode about the importance of living smoke-free for a healthy heart.

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