We’ve all been there . . . Collapsing into a fit of hysterical laughter that has you gulping for air and wondering if you’ll actually die from laughing so hard. But could you really? Die, that is? There are plenty of anecdotal stories that point to the possibility. But that’s not all. Apparently, medically speaking, too much laughter can be downright deadly.Like any good medicine, laughter can kill you.
The adage goes that laughter is the best medicine
. There is plenty of evidence to support this idea as the health benefits of laughter have been scrutinized rather closely. In addition to lightening the spirit and connecting you to others, laughter can relieve physical tension, boost the immune system, trigger endorphin release, and protect the heart. But, like most medicine, in big enough doses laughter can kill you. How laughter can do you in.
There are a number of ways you can actually laugh yourself to death. One way is if you happen to have a brain aneurysm (and 1% to 6% of us unknowingly do). In that case a good hearty laugh could cause the aneurysm to rupture. That’s because laughing increases the pressure inside your skull, and this in turn puts stress on the aneurysm.
Laughter can also lead to death by hernia. During a good belly laugh, you contract your stomach muscles which puts pressure on the abdominal wall. That force can cause parts of your bowel to protrude through. This is called a hernia, and though people can live with them without too much complication, it the hernia gets strangulated during a particularly hard bout of laughter, you could require immediate surgery. If you don’t get to the hospital in time, it’s possible to die from the lack of blood supply to the bowel.
People with severe congestive heart failure or COPD
are in short supply of backup cardiac function and lung capacity, so a long fit of laughter could mean the heart and lungs simply can’t compensate. The normal physiological changes that take place during laughter would be more than they could bear.
The millions of Americans suffering from coronary artery disease are also at risk for death by laughter. Laughing gets your heart rate up and that could rupture and dislodge coronary plaque. This would block arterial blood flow and a heart attack would follow.
There are some cases where it’s not the actual laughter that kills. Laughing could be a sign of something sinister going on. Pathological laughter can be the first sign of a stroke
or a seizure, and these seizures could indicate a brain tumor or other potentially deadly conditions.
Though it is certainly no laughing matter, people die from brain aneurysms, strangulated hernias, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease and strokes all the time. The point is, don’t let fear keep you from the joys of laughter. And since we will all leave this world at some time, having the last laugh isn’t the worse way to go.