Is a Laugh a Day the Key to a Healthy Heart?

Is a Laugh a Day the Key to a Healthy Heart?

When it comes to your heart, here’s why laughter really may be the best medicine.

It may sound like a barrel of monkeys, but research suggests that a good laugh may just be the punch line for good health.

The Science behind Your Funny Bone

When you laugh, your brain activates a series of neurons called a reward pathway. The reward pathways triggered by humor cause a sense of euphoria and can lead to a reduction in stress.

Chronic high levels of stress interrupt sleep and can cause a host of health issues, from heart disease and diabetes to depression and anxiety. Laughter, on the other hand, does the opposite. In addition to easing stress, research suggests laughing may decrease blood pressure, reduce artery inflammation, increase HDL (“good” cholesterol), lessen pain, reduce muscle tension, improve your immune system, boost morale and enrich your quality of life. Although research on the subject is limited, results suggest that a laugh a day may be just what you need to keep your heart healthy and improve your overall well-being.

Laugh Therapy Is No Laughing Matter

Today, humor therapy is often used as part of an integrated regimen to treat chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and asthma. Convinced about the benefits of laughter for older adults, a hospital in Washington, DC even created a “Laugh Café” where seniors meet for hour-long laugh sessions.

If you’re looking for an easy way to help improve your health, don’t forget to laugh each day. Hang out with funny people, read a humorous book or see a silly movie. While humor is contagious, its only temporary side effects are shortness of breath and a sore belly but it can provide a host of long-term benefits.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 17, 2017

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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The Pros and Cons of Vegetarian Diets

The Pros and Cons of Vegetarian Diets

<h1>Eating plant-based foods sounds healthy, but there are still drawbacks to this type of diet.</h1>

<p>Many people follow a vegetarian diet in an effort to improve their health. The health-related benefits of vegetarian diets are well-documented. But there are downsides to this type of eating style, too. If you are thinking about following some type of vegetarian diet, consider these pros and cons to make sure it’s the right fit for you.</p>
<p><strong>Pro: Vegetarian diets may lower your risk for disease.</strong></p>
<p>Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are the core of a healthy, well-balanced vegetarian diet. These foods provide an abundance of health-protective vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that may lower the risk for common chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and obesity.</p>
<p><strong>Cons: Just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s healthy.</strong></p>
<p>On the flip side, if your vegetarian diet includes a lot of highly processed foods instead of whole plant-based foods, the risk for some chronic diseases may actually increase. There are many junk foods that fit into a vegetarian diet but are not good for you—think soda, chips and cookies, among others. Packaged vegetarian meals and snacks may contain high amounts of added sugar, sodium and fat and offer little to no nutritional value. Keep in mind that just as with any diet, there are ways to make a vegetarian diet healthy and ways to turn it into a diet disaster.</p>
<p><strong>Pro: You have options when it comes to going vegetarian.</strong></p>
<p>You can determine the type of vegetarian eating plan that’s right for you. Some people eliminate meat, fish, and poultry from their diets but eat eggs and dairy. Others allow only eggs or only dairy. Some include seafood on occasion. A vegan diet eliminates all foods derived from animals, even things like honey.</p>
<p><strong>Con: You may have possible nutrient deficiencies.</strong></p>
<p>Some essential nutrients, such as vitamins B12 and D, calcium and iron, aren’t available in many plant-based foods. Vegetarian diets may provide these nutrients as long as food intake is planned properly, but supplementation is sometimes necessary. Top sources of these nutrients for vegetarians include:</p>
<ul>
<li><strong>Vitamin B12: </strong>Found in animal products like eggs and milk (as well as meat, fish and poultry). Also found in some fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, meat substitutes and soymilk.</li>
<li><strong>Vitamin D: </strong>In addition to eggs and fish, also found in fortified plant milks and mushrooms. Vitamin D is also gained through sun exposure.</li>
<li><strong>Calcium: </strong>Aside from dairy products, calcium can be found in fortified plant-based milks, cereal, juice, tofu, collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans and almonds.</li>
<li><strong>Iron: </strong>You can get iron from eggs and also fortified cereal, soy, spinach, chard and beans. Pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, peppers or tomatoes to increase absorption.</li>
</ul>
<p>Starting a vegetarian diet can be tricky when grocery shopping, dining out and eating in social settings. Over time this becomes easier, but it does require some work. Read labels on products and become familiar with common ingredients derived from animals, such as casein, whey and gelatin. At restaurants, keep in mind that meatless meals may be prepared with dairy or other animal products, like beef or chicken broth, so ask questions to make a selection that’s right for you. When dining at someone’s home, the best thing to do is to bring along a vegetarian dish that everyone can enjoy.</p>
<p>If you are committed to starting a vegetarian lifestyle, a registered dietitian can give you helpful tips that better ensure that your nutrition needs are being met.</p>

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Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.</p>
<p>Date Last Reviewed: August 16, 2021</p>
<p>Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. <a target=”_blank” href=”mailto:andreac@baldwinpublishing.com”>Contact Editor</a></p>
<p>Medical Review: Beth Stark, RDN, LDN</p>
<p>Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. <a href=”https://www.baldwinpublishing.com/editorial-policy” target=”_blank”>editorial policy</a>, <a href=”https://www.baldwinpublishing.com/privacy-policy” target=”_blank”>privacy policy</a>, <a href=”https://www.baldwinpublishing.com/ADA-compliance” target=”_blank”>ADA compliance</a> and <a href=”https://www.baldwinpublishing.com/sponsorship-policy” target=”_blank”>sponsorship policy</a>.</p>
<p>No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these <a href=”https://baldwinpublishing.com/terms-of-use” target=”_blank”>terms of use</a>.</p>
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