(KAIT/NBC) - Smiling may reduce stress and benefit our heart health, according to doctors.
Dr. Anand Chockalingam, a cardiologist at University of Missouri Health Care, believes smiling is a first step in fighting stress and its potential consequences.
“When we smile, the brain wiring gets altered," Dr. Chockalingam said. "The chemicals that are released are more positive.”
The link between stress and heart disease isn't fully understood, but the American Heart Association said stress may lead to unhealthy habits like smoking, overeating, and inactivity. Those habits can increase blood pressure and damage arteries.
"Once people smile, they are relaxing. This relaxation directly lowers blood pressure, improves sugar levels in the blood," said Dr. Chockalingam.
He said he encourages his patients to smile 20 times an hour. His other suggestions included sitting quietly for five minutes each day and thinking about something pleasant to reduce stress.