In the current issue of the American Association of Therapeutic Voice AATH (Humor Voice), I was asked to comment on the connection between laughter and suppression of inflammation. To review recent issues of AATH Humor Voice, click here.
In summary, laughter activates a specific region of the brain to release endorphins. These chemicals travel through the bloodstream where they interact with specialized receptors located in the lining of blood vessels (or endothelium) to release nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a highly celebrated chemical that works wonders for your heart (and overall health), in part by suppressing the release of pro-inflammatory mediators produced by kidneys and white blood cells.
By suppressing inflammation, laughter is among the best natural defenses we have to maintain good health and vitality! Let’s replace the old adage… “take 2 aspirin….with “have a couple of good laughs and call me in the morning!”
Michael Miller, MD is author of the bestselling book “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” & Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA.
Together with my colleague, Dr. Stanley Hazen, a pioneer in studying the relationship between the gut and heart, our team recently published a paper showing for the first time that a diet high in saturated (Sat) fat produces more unhealthy gut byproducts that a predominantly plant-based diet . Sat fat sources include animal fats (red & processed meats), fried foods and dairy products. For more information on this paper click here.
In this study, we randomly assigned men and women to 3 different diets. One diet was high in Sat Fat modeled after the Atkins Diet, the 2nd diet was a Mediterranean Diet resembling the South Beach Diet and the third was the low-fat, predominantly plant based, Ornish Diet. Each volunteer participated in all 3 dietary phases with each diet lasting 4 weeks. At the beginning of the study and end of each diet phase, blood samples were collected. Our results indicated the following:
- Levels of the gut byproduct known as “TMAO” were highest after the high Sat Fat (Atkins diet) and lowest after the low fat, primary plant-based (Ornish) diet.
- Two amino acids (valine and leucine) were also highest after the Sat Fat diet compared to the other 2 diet phases.
- High levels of TMAO and the 2 amino acids listed are linked to increased risk of heart related issues.
- The bottom line: Substitute plant-based foods low in Sat Fat for animal products high in Sat (& Trans) Fats- Your heart & gut will thank you! Michael Miller, MD is author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” & Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA.
Listed below is an excerpt from an article I wrote in the current issue of Cerebrum, published by the Dana Foundation on ways to reduce day-to-day stress and live a longer, healthier life. If you want to read the entire piece, click here.
A special thanks to Bill Glovin for excellent editing and guidance in composing this piece.
Does counteracting negative stressors reduce cardiovascular risk? While no clinical outcome trials have been conducted to date, adoption of lifestyle strategies aimed at improving positive emotions seems to improve biomarkers of cardiovascular health, such as inflammation, arterial stiffness, and endothelial function. In my cardiology practice and as elaborated upon below, I recommend that my patients employ these five strategies to reduce day-to-day stressors:
1. Meditation (serotonin activated relaxation practices)
2. Yoga (GABA induced mood stabilization)
3. Laughter (endorphin mediated visual effects)
4. Music (dopamine regulated auditory effects)
5. Massages, hugging (oxytocin activated tactile responses)
Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” published by Penguin Random House.
In the May issue of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) informative publication, Nutrition Action Newsletter, a number of “controversies that won’t quit” were put to the task by showing the evidence that exists in support of or refuting the 6 controversies discussed. Some topics included whether dietary supplements prevent depression and whether cinnamon lowers blood sugar (if you want an honest and unbiased appraisal, check it out). I was interviewed as to whether statins are “very risky”. After all, I continue to have patients refuse to take a statin because they believe that it will cause them permanent harm. And while statins can cause muscle-related issues, they are reversible when the statin discontinued.
Yet books have been written designed to instill fear about statins….. here are some facts that you should be aware of before you refuse a statin indicated and recommended by your health care professional to help you:
- Statins do not cause permanent muscle or nerve-related issues in the absence of a pre-existing deficit.
- Statins do not cause very high glucose levels in someone with a normal blood glucose.
- Statins do not cause permanent liver issues in someone with a normal liver.
Before starting a statin, you should have your blood tested to make sure your thyroid, liver and kidney function is normal. Most people prescribed a statin have no problems. But if you do and depending upon the side effect experienced, your physician may temporarily discontinue the statin, readjust the dose or dosing regimen, switch you to another statin or try another cholesterol lowering agent.
The bottom line: statins have over a 30-year track record of reliability, effectiveness and safety… with a high upside for those in whom this therapy is indicated.
Michael Miller, MD is author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” & Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA.