Research suggests 8 ways a furry friend can improve your physical and mental health.
Want to live healthier? Get a Pet.
Walking your dog helps keep your cholesterol down, according to Dr. Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. An Australian survey has found that pet owners tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Stroking your dog or cat helps reduce your heart beat rate and lower your blood pressure. Just being in the same room as your pet can have a calming effect. The neurochemical, oxytocin, is released, which gives you feelings of joy. At the same time there is a decrease in cortisol, your stress hormone.
Reducing blood pressure
Researchers at the NY State University at Buffalo found that people on meds for hypertension had their response to stress cut by half if they owned a cat or dog.
A University of Missouri study found that dog walkers improved fitness more than people who just walked with other people. Another study found that dog owners walked a weekly average of 300 minutes; people who didn’t own dogs walked only 168 minutes a week.
Reducing risk of heart disease
In 2013, the American Heart Association reviewed a number of studies on the effects of pet ownership on heart disease and concluded that having a pet—especially a dog—is associated with a reduction in risk plus an increase rate of heart attack survival among patients.
Pets, especially dogs, provide emotional support by promoting therapeutic and psychological wellbeing, particularly by lowering stress levels and boosting self-esteem, according to studies by the British Psychological Society. That’s because “when a pet pays attention to you, they’re giving you unconditional love and acceptance,” says researcher Dr. Christenson.
Easing chronic pain
Petting your animal releases endorphins—hormones that are powerful pain relievers. A study by Loyola University Chicago found that people who underwent joint replacement surgery used less pain meds when they received pet therapy. Also, the simple task of caring for a pet can also be a positive distraction for people in pain.
Improving your self-esteem
Pets are completely non-judgmental, and take you at face value. They don’t care how you look or whether you’ve brushed your teeth. They simply love you, no matter what. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that pet owners had higher self-esteem, as well as more feelings of belonging and meaningful existence than did people who had no pets.
For more information:
• webmd.com - lowering hypertension and benefits of pets
• vital-aging-network.org - benefits of owning a pet
• health.com - health and owning a pet