Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  But is this statement really true?  With April designated as National Humor Month, we look at the benefits of a cheerier outlook and if it really does make for good medicine.

What exactly happens physically when we laugh?  Some researchers believe the effects of laugher and exercise is very similar, from stretching muscles throughout your face and body to increasing your breathing, which sends more oxygen and nutrients into your blood stream.  Additionally, laughter increases the hormones beta-endorphins (which elevate mood) and human growth hormone (which boosts immunity) while reducing three stress hormones – cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac.  High levels of these three hormones have been linked to compromised immune systems.

So what are some other effects of laughter?  Here are a few:

  • Fights depression
  • Increases respiration
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Reduces pain
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves stamina

Just because you have a laughter-filled life, however, does not mean you should abandon a healthy diet and exercise regime.  In fact, some researchers are divided on how laughter is so beneficial.  While laughter certainly has an effect on the physical body, as mentioned above, perhaps it is the why behind the laughter that is the most important.  For example, if someone is sharing a laugh with family or friends, it means they are in contact with other human beings that they love and with whom they share a close bond.  Some researchers believe that it is these relationships that lead to better or improved health, and not the laughter itself.

Either way, who really needs a reason to laugh?  So even if laughter cannot actually improve your physical health, at the very least it does improve your quality of life, which is reason enough for most people!

Imaging, At Your Service

Methodist Hospital for Surgery, the newest hospital in the Dallas, Texas, area, offers patients a multifaceted imaging department featuring the latest state-of-the-art technology as well as a superior clinical staff.  The hospital prides itself on providing unparalleled service to patients and physicians.

“If a patient needs to undergo an imaging procedure at 9 p.m., we’ll make it happen,” says Bobby Himel, BS, RT(R) (MR) (CT), imaging manager at Methodist Hospital for Surgery. “We strive to offer exceptional clinical and customer service.”

Intraoperative Surgical Tool

The hospital specializes in orthopedic care, ranging from hip and knee replacements to treatment of spinal injuries. The multi-dimensional imaging capabilities offered at the hospital are rare in facilities across the United States and complement the hospital’s orthopedic capabilities.

“Our pride and joy at the hospital is the first Medtronic O-Arm® System in North Texas,” Himel says. “It’s a navigation device that allows us to place stabilizing devices into a patient’s spine while still operating. We can perform a computed tomography [CT] scan during an operation to ensure that the cages or screws that have been secured in the patient are in the correct places.”

The hospital utilizes other tools geared toward spinal calculations and hip and knee projections.

Community Response

At Methodist Hospital for Surgery, the staff and the leadership team have substantial expertise in all of the imaging modalities.

“We not only provide the latest imaging technology, but our nurses, technologists, and hospital staff have the highest levels of clinical expertise in their fields,” Himel says. “Our hospital offers a full range of services by experts who have received additional certifications to provide knowledge that empowers patients.”

Located off the Dallas North Tollway in Addison, Texas, the hospital is easily accessible for patients, offers valet parking, and accommodates patients by providing multiple handicap ramps.

“The hospital is beautiful,” Himel says. “The hardwood floors, marble sinks, and high-definition televisions help make the hospital experience more comfortable and homey.”

To learn more about the imaging department at Methodist Hospital for Surgery, visit or call (469) 248-3900.

Building Healthy Habits

There is no doubt that healthy habits start at a young age, from eating a balanced diet to exercising regularly. However, children do not automatically or intuitively have these habits, so it is important that parents to teach their children how to choose healthy foods and to be physically active. The Centers for Disease Control report that one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese, so developing lasting habits that lead to a long, healthy life is more important than ever.

In observance of the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day 2011 (April 17), we wanted to share with you some ideas and strategies for getting your kids moving and teaching that exercise really can be fun. As the weather warms up outside, it is a great time to be enjoying the outdoors as a family. Experts recommend children above the age of 6 need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Most of that hour should be either moderate or vigorous aerobic activity with children participating in muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

A major obstacle parents have to overcome with their children is the lure of TV, video games, and the Internet. These sedentary activities do not promote good health, so parents need to provide an alternative that children will find fun and appealing. One thing to keep in mind is that parents are a powerful example for children, so taking part in physical activity with your child can be an effective way to draw your children away from the living room and into the backyard.

Get Moving Ideas

  • Plan a game night: in good weather, these games can be outdoors in the backyard, a local park, or in a swimming pool. Classic games like Tag or Simon Says get kids moving. However, an indoor game like Charades can provide a means to activity when it is cold or raining.
  • Get in the game: playing a sport with your child is a great way to teach them a new skill while also being active. Kid-friendly sports include soccer, basketball, baseball, and tennis.
  • Provide active toys: having jump ropes, a basketball or a soccer ball on hand encourages kids to use them. On the weekends, consider putting up a volleyball or badminton net and inviting the neighbors to join in on a tournament.
  • Explore the neighborhood: biking or walking through your neighborhood provides a different sensory experience than just driving through in the car. Take the time to point out trees and flowers to your kids. You can also make this a treasure hunt for smaller children, collecting leaves, rocks, and bird feathers along the way.

Exercising with your children does not have to time-consuming or expensive, but it should be fun. Taking the time to discover what works for your family and learning which activities your kids prefer will deepen your bond as a family as you learn to laugh and play together.

Aaacho! Spring Allergies

As you breathe a sigh of relief that winter is over and warmer weather is upon us, that sigh may quickly be followed by a sneeze.  It is estimated that 35 million Americans suffer each year from allergies in the springtime, triggered mostly by the release of pollen into the air.  While there is no cure to seasonal allergies, there are ways to combat them and at least be more comfortable during this period.  And remember: seasonal allergies are just that – seasonal.  However, if you find yourself constantly battling a runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing, then it might be time to see an allergist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist for testing of a specific allergy, such as dust or pet dander.

To combat seasonal allergies, it is first important to know what causes them.  Each spring, trees, grasses, and weeds release small grains into the air for the purpose of fertilizing – or pollenating – other plants.  (So while you might enjoy the sight of beautiful blooming gardens in the spring and summer, recognize those blooms come at a cost!)  If someone with an allergy to pollen breathes in these grains, then the body responds as it would when any kind of infection invades the body: it fights back.  As your body employs antibodies to fight this new foreign substance in your airways, the antibodies release histamines, a chemical that causes the classic symptoms of allergy sufferers: a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes, in addition to a host of other symptoms.

So, how do you fight back?  For one, realize that the weather can play a role in the pollen count in a particular area.  For example, the pollen count is usually highest on windy days, when pollen is carried through the air on the breeze.  Rainy days, however, typically produce a lower pollen count because the water washes the allergens away.  If possible, plan how long you are outdoors for days that are less windy, or try to run errands when it is raining.  April showers do bring May flowers – and allergy relief!

For most people, spring allergies are just a rite of the season and do not affect their daily lives.  However, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help with your symptoms.  These range from antihistamines and decongestants, to nasal spray and eye drops.  Be mindful, though, that some antihistamines can make you sleepy, so you need to practice caution when taking them during the day.  There are some natural alternatives as well, in the form of herbal supplements that some people find effective.  It is important to talk to you doctor before trying herbal remedies, though, because they may react with the medications you are already taking.  If your symptoms are severe, however, and the OTC remedies you have tried are not helping, you may want to talk to your doctor about prescription options.

You might also find it beneficial to be tested by an allergist to find out what specifically in the spring air you are allergic to, whether it is mold, tree pollen, or a type of weed. That way, you can plan to stay indoors when that particular pollen count is highest.  (Pollen counts are typically available on weather websites during the spring months.)  Also remember to keep your windows closed during the spring months to avoid bringing pollen inside your home.

If your sinus problems lead to headaches and constant congestion, you may also want to check in with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, as you may have a condition known as chronic sinusitis, or sinus infection.  Both surgical and non-surgical treatments are available for sinusitis.  Talking to a specialist is the best way to figure out your options.

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