Research shows laughter has healing potential.

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Did you know that you could laugh your way into good health? Research has shown that laughter is a great natural cure for many medical conditions. And now, three new studies drive home the point on the healing powers of laughter:

1. Laughter may decrease the perception of pain. This was published in the September 2011 edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences. This study looked at six experimental studies in watching videos and live performances, checking for responses to pain with and without laughter. The results show that pain thresholds are significantly higher after laughter than in the control condition. That is, people who were laughing felt less pain with the same stimuli than those who weren’t laughing.

2. Laughter may protect against a heart attack. Researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. In this study, researchers compared the humor responses of 300 people, half with coronary disease and half without. The study found that those who were able handle life humorously were 40 percent less likely to have a heart attack.

3. A sense of humor appears to keep people healthy and improves longevity — those that laughed seem to live longer. This was shown in a 2010 study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, and was composed of an examination of records from 53,500 individuals who were followed up after seven years.

The study found that those with a sense of humor were more likely to reach their mid-70s (after the age of 75, the study hypothesized that genetics and biological aging are of greater importance in predicting longevity).

Additionally, the physical act of laughter has been shown in various studies to:

— Create a feeling of well-being;

— Increase creativity and complex problem solving;

— Stimulate social support and the sense of teamwork;

— Lower blood pressure by reducing vasoconstriction of blood vessels;

— Reduce stress and induce relaxation.

So go grab the slapstick comedy video, laugh at something funny, or laugh for no reason at all! It may benefit your health, and it is certainly the most fun medicine you can take.

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Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program in Sacramento, Calif. Have a question related to alternative medicine? Email adrenaline@sacbee.com.