Laughing May Be Harmful to Your Health

Really.  Some experts are saying that laughter can do things to our jaws, cause asthma attacks, make our heads ache, even disrpt cardiac rhythms, writes Jan Hoffman at the NYT.

The pulication where the study appeared,  The British Medical Journal, had not addressed laughter in a serious fashion in over a century, according to Hoffman. "In 1898, it had published a case study of heart failure in a 13-year-old girl following prolonged laughter. The next year, the laughter problem was raised again, when an editorial writer, in response to an Italian doctor’s suggestion that telling jokes could treat bronchitis, dismissively proposed the term “gelototherapy” (Gelos was the Greek god of laughter; in Italian, gelato is ice cream.)."

Laughter has long been advised as a treatment for depression, and a famous magazine editor claimed in the 70's that The Three Stoodges cured him of a serious illness.  

But there's also been criticism of the feel-good prescription.  Hoffman notes some experts have said, quoting one about the popping of alveoli (the air sacs in the lungs, which together typically contain about 600 million): “If you’re going to make asthmatics laugh heartily, they might want to have an inhaler by their side.”

As someone with asthma, I must say I've never been in danger watching "Legit."  Hoffman writes, "There are choking hazards, such as ingesting food during belly laughs."

Again, as someone who eats a lot watching TV, that's never been a problem (though I did almost choke to death on shrimp in a restaurant, gesturing wildly with my hands to my husband, then my boyfriend,  who kept right on eating obliviously (though firemen at a table nearby noticed and rushed over to help). I don't have much faith he'd get it today, either!  But then, don't interrupt Larry when he's eating.

In the end, experts "concluded that laughter’s benefits included reduced anger, anxiety and stress; reduced cardiovascular tension, blood glucose concentration and risk of myocardial infarction. “The benefit-harm balance,” the authors wrote, 'is probably favourable,' Hoffman says.

So go get a Three Stoodges DVD and keep on laughing, everyone. 


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