COLUMBIA — While physicians typically prescribe medication, exercise and changes in diet, one heart specialist is also telling his patients to smile more.
Anand Chockalingam, MD, is a cardiologist at University of Missouri Health Care. He recommends people smile 20 times an hour for better health.
“When we smile, the brain wiring is altered,” said Chockalingam. “The chemicals that are released are more positive.”
Chockalingam said smiling is a first step toward reducing stress and its potential for negative consequences.
The link between stress and heart disease isn’t fully understood, but the American Heart Association said stress may lead to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, overeating and physical inactivity. These behaviors can increase blood pressure and damage arteries.
“Once people smile, they are relaxing. This relaxation directly lowers blood pressure and improves sugar levels in the blood,” said Chockalingam.
Chockalingam also frequently tells his patients to sit quietly for five minutes each day and think about something pleasant. Making time for rest, he said, can lead to mindfulness and meditation, which he also recommends for better heart health.
You can find more tips to prevent heart disease here.