We all know the saying that a dog is man’s best friend, as it turns out its woman’s best friend too, and it’s not just because they give unconditional love and simply make us feel better. Did you know that pets actually improve your health both physically and psychologically? Dogs and cats can actually make you healthy and then help to keep you that way.
Studies have been conducted that indicate that pets not only affect our disposition and provide us with companionship, but that there are actual cardiovascular benefits. Pet ownership studies have easily confirmed that it only requires a few minutes spent with a cat or dog to reduce our stress levels, causing physiological changes in the body. The physical changes in the body that occur are that as you feel less stressed this reduces the amount of cortisol your body produces, a hormone that is produced which is associated with stress, the reduction of cortisol in turn increases the production of serotonin, which is associated with a feeling of calm and well being. The increased production of serotonin can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure which can have cardiovascular benefits.
A study of 240 married couples found that the couples who were pet owners had lower heart rates and blood pressure, both when undergoing a stress test and at rest, than the couples who did not own a pet. Yet another study showed that children with a pre-existing hypertension condition benefited in the same way the adult couples did. The children who were petting their dog had a reduction in their blood pressure.
Another health benefit from pet ownership is lowered cholesterol, although the study results are not as definitive in this area as they are regarding cardiovascular benefits, the results are just common sense. Researchers found that people who regularly walked their dogs were less likely to be obese and had lower cholesterol and triglycerides than people who did not own a pet.
Pet Owners Have Less Risk Of Heart Attack And Better Survival Rate 1 Year Later
A study conducted over a twenty year period indicated that the study participants who never owned a cat were forty percent more likely to die from a heart attack, than the people who had been cat owners. And in another research study it was found that dog owners had a markedly higher survival rate one year after having had a heart attack than did those who did not own a dog. The cumulative results of the studies indicate that pet owners have a reduced risk of dying from heart failure or any type of cardiac disease for that matter.
Mental Health Benefits
Mental health professionals treating patients for depression very often prescribe that their patients get a pet as part of their therapy. The companionship of a pet helps to relieve feelings of loneliness and the unconditional love they give their owners can reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have proven that petting a dog or cat has a calming effect on people, and grooming and caring for them gives people a sense of purpose that often makes them feel better about their own self image. Dog owners that walk their dogs also can benefit socially, in that it is easier to strike up a conversation with another dog owner, or they do so with you, than when you are walking alone. Social benefits aren’t the only benefits you’ll reap from walking your dog. Taking your dog for two 15 minute walks daily will keep you both fit (the minimum daily required for humans) any physical activity after that is a bonus and only enhance your health benefits. Therapists recommend adding 15 minutes of playing fetch the ball or Frisbee or for as long as you and your dog want to play, its fun for you both and may increase endorphin production which can help to reduce depression.
* This therapy is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment and/or medication *
While you may be thinking you are taking care of your pet, the truth is your pet may be taking care of you, your mind, body and spirit. So, now you have even more reason to enjoy your best friend knowing that the quality of your life is being enriched as well as your health.