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Clinical Articles, Lead Article

Laughter as good as a statin?

An ESC Congress study1 looked at the effects of laughter on arterial blood flow. Researchers measured the diameter of the brachial artery in 20 non-smoking, healthy men and women who on one day watched clips of comedy films, and on another watched the stressful opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan.

Their results showed that blood flow was enhanced by 22% in those watching the funny film, but decreased by 35% in those watching the stressful film. “The magnitude of the effects we saw were similar to the effects of exercise or taking a statin,” said investigator Michael Miller from the University of Maryland in Baltimore, USA.

“We’re not talking about a simple chuckle,” he said, “but real mirthful laughter,” which, he added, should last for at least 15 seconds. Laughter, he explained, might exert its beneficial effect through the release of endorphins by the brain, which activate receptors on the endothelium which in turn lead to the release of nitric oxide. “Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, reduces inflammation, cholesterol deposition and clotting,” said Miller.

Listening to music with faster tempos results in increased breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, while slower music caused declines in heart rates, according to another study2 cited by the organisation. Dr Hans-Joachim Trappe, an organist and cardiologist from the University of Bochum, Herne, Germany, believes that classical music offers the ideal therapy for patients with hypertension and increased heart rates. He is now  planning a prospective study – “Bach or beta blockers” – in which patients with hypertension will be randomised to one or the other and followed with continuous blood pressure monitoring.

iStock_000013097591XSmallThe ESC asserts that, despite a recent declaration on the prevention and control of CVD from the United Nations, efforts to lower the burden of CVD cannot rest only with policy makers and global leaders. Individuals must learn about the risk factors and take steps to reduce their own and their family’s liability, the Society insists.


1 Miller M. Laughter and vascular function. ESC Congress 2011, Programme number 351.

2 Trappe H-J. Music and health: clinical implications. ESC Congress 2011, Programme number 352.

Published on: December 1, 2011

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