No Joking Matter: The Health Benefits of Laughter
On Thursday, May 14, ISDH personnel enjoyed a presentation on the practice of Laughter Yoga by Sarah Lyttle, a program coordinator with Fisher Institute of Gerontology. Sarah's visit included an overview of the many physiological benefits of laughter and an introduction to some of the concepts and exercises that are part of a laughter yoga routine.
The concept of Laughter Yoga, which has gained an international popularity and interest from the business world for its stress-reducing effects on the workplace, is based around the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter as the psysiological benefits are the same. Research around laughter’s effects inside the body show that laughter can relax muscles, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, elevate mood, increase the body’s oxygen content and produce biochemical changes. Laughter as an exercise and with a prolonged delivery can reduce some of the negative health implications of stress. Stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, research has shown, are often catalysts for various health problems from heart disease and anxiety to insomnia, asthma, tension headaches and the onset of chronic disease.
Sarah’s exercises aimed to deliver laughter loudly and from the diaphragm. Planned laughter often results from the disciplined delivery and yogic breathing. OWH has placed a link to laughter yoga resources on our website www.womenshealth.isdh.in.gov, for those interested in learning more about this form of exercise, or “wellbeing workout.” One exercise that Sarah shared is easy to describe and perform: it is a variation of the roaring lion pose or asana. For this exercise, participants were instructed to stand with feet hip width apart, raise arms over head, inhale and then vocalize a “roar” sound and project one’s tongue as arms are brought down to one’s sides forming a circular shape in front of the body. This can be a release for negative emotions and can dissipate feelings of anger or frustration. Please contact Morgan McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to receive more information on Sarah or her practice.
Summertime… and the Safety’s easy!
The weather’s heating up, which means Hoosiers are spending more time outdoors. While many of us look forward to outside summer activities, did you know that June is a time of increased unintentional injuries? National Safety Month occurs annually in June to bring awareness to public safety and to change behaviors to prevent injuries.
One of the easiest behaviors to change that will have a big impact on health is to avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water. We have all heard it before, but our bodies really do need plenty of water to work properly and alcohol can cause dehydration, so consume responsibly.
Another easy change to make in your daily life is to wear sunscreen. To get the best protection, make sure you are using water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and it provides coverage against both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to reapply often.
Warm-weather activities offer a nice change of pace to our normal workout routines. But whether you are showing off your mad skateboarding skills, tearing up the pavement while rollerblading, practicing your doggie-paddle or leisurely bicycling to the farmer’s market, make sure you are practicing safety at all times by ensuring all equipment is up-to-date, checked for safety and you are wearing it as prescribed.
Find these safety tips and more at the National Safety Month
website. Follow these safety measures and you’ll be on your way to a fun and safe June!
“Ask Me About Scleroderma”
June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month and you can become an advocate by helping to raise the awareness of a disease that doesn’t receive much attention, but can be devastating for those affected. Scleroderma is a Greek word for hard skin; however it really is much more: it can be disfiguring, debilitating and deadly. According to the Scleroderma Foundation there are approximately 300,000 people living with the disease and as many as 10,000 people die each year. Those living with scleroderma will often have trouble bathing, dressing and taking care of daily needs. Some studies estimate that four out five patients diagnosed with scleroderma are female. OWH interviewed an expert at Indiana University Health's Rheumatology Department, Dr. Christopher Wu, to find out more about scleroderma and why so many women are affected.
OWH: What causes scleroderma and what are the signs?
Dr. Wu: “Scleroderma results from an overproduction and accumulation of collagen in body tissues. Collagen is a fibrous protein in the body that makes up your body's connective tissues, including skin. Although doctors aren't sure what prompts this abnormal collagen production, the body's immune system appears to play a role. For unknown reasons, the immune system turns against the body, producing inflammation and the overproduction of collagen.
A common sign of the disease is skin hardening and thickening, particularly involving the fingers, as this is a nearly universal feature of scleroderma. Another very common feature is color change of the fingers with cold exposure, what is known as Raynaud's phenomenon. A majority of patients will also experience general symptoms such as fatigue, joint stiffness, muscle pain and weakness.”
OWH: Why are women more prone to the disease than men?
Dr. Wu: “The reason why scleroderma affects women more than men is because it is an auto-immune disease, and many auto-immune diseases are more common in women than men. Female hormones may increase a women's chance of an auto-immune illness compared to men, or it may be the results of genes located on the X chromosome.”
OWH: How does the disease affect the body?
Dr. Wu: “Scleroderma can manifest as thickening and hardening of skin, tightness around the joints, fibrosis or scarring in the lungs, difficulty with swallowing and acid reflux, scarring around the heart and changes in normal vascular physiology. The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly from individual to individual, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life-threatening. The seriousness will depend on what parts of the body are affected and the extent to which they are affected. In the past, kidney disease was a leading cause of death in scleroderma (a condition called "scleroderma renal crisis"), although new medications have dramatically lowered that once fatal condition. Today, the leading cause of death from scleroderma is lung involvement from either pulmonary fibrosis or pulmonary hypertension. Cardiac involvement can also be a very serious manifestation.”
OWH: Is there a cure or treatment for scleroderma?
Dr. Wu: “At the present time, there is no cure for scleroderma, but there are many treatments available. Some are directed at particular symptoms like heartburn, which can be controlled by medications called proton pump inhibitors or medicine to improve the motion of the bowel. Some treatments are directed at decreasing the activity of the immune system. Some people with mild disease may not need medication at all and occasionally people can stop treatment when their scleroderma is no longer active.”
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