It’s official — a good laugh is literally heartwarming. It’s good medicine, according to a study that found that watching comedy films boosts cardiac blood flow.
The study included 20 healthy young adults who watched 15 to 30 minute segments of either humorous or sad films with a minimum of 48 hours between viewings.
The study participants were asked to refrain from aerobic exercise or from using alcohol, vitamins or herbs the evening before the viewings since these can all affect blood flow.
As reported in the journal Heart, researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore collected a total of 160 measurements of brachial artery flow from the participants a minute before and after phases of laughter or sadness. The brachial artery, which runs from the shoulder to the elbow, is a good indicator of blood flow throughout the body.
According to the researchers, brachial blood flow was reduced in 14 of the 20 participants after they watched segments from the sad movies. Blood flow was increased in 19 of the 20 participants after they watched clips from comedy movies.
The difference in blood flow response while watching sad or happy movies was more than 50 percent. The effect of watching a sad movie caused the same kind of reduced blood flow as remembering episodes of anger and doing mental arithmetic, the study authors said. In contrast, watching a comedy boosted blood flow to a level equal to that of doing aerobic exercise or getting started on a cholesterol-lowering statin treatment.
The findings were first presented last year at the American College of Cardiology scientific sessions meeting in Orlando, Fla. The study also found that a watching a good tearjerker has the opposite effect, leaving hearts a little low — at least in terms of blood flow.