If you’ve ever loved a pet, you know the kind of joy animals can bring. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, seeing your pet makes you smile from ear to ear.
If you’ve ever loved a pet, you know the kind of joy animals can bring. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, seeing your pet makes you smile from ear to ear. Pets have a positive impact on your mood, and research shows they also have a positive impact on your overall health.
“Research has led us to believe that having a pet might lower your risk of heart disease,” said Steven J. Raible, M.D., cardiologist with Norton Heart Specialists and board president of the Kentuckiana Metro chapter of the American Heart Association. “Dog ownership in particular may help reduce cardiovascular risk. Having a dog is shown to be helpful because you are more likely to be physically active.”
Here’s what we know: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in America. It is the result of plaque buildup in the arteries, which blocks blood flow, heightening the risk for heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, more than 375,000 people die from heart disease every year. However, evidence supports that owning pets can be associated with reducing your risk. Here’s how:
- Physical activity. Pets encourage you to be active. People with dogs usually engage in more walking, running or hiking with their four-legged companion. Exercise is good for your overall health and reduces stress.
- Social activity. Pet owners tend to be more socially engaged with others. Whether it’s trip to the dog park or a walk around the block, dogs are great conversation starters among both dog lovers and dog admirers. Dogs help ease people out of social isolation or shyness.
- Stress relief. Pets can help control blood pressure. While drugs can generally reduce one’s blood pressure, they are less effective at controlling spikes in blood pressure from stress and tension. Tests among people with high blood pressure have shown that those who have dogs or cats had lower blood pressure and heart rates.
Pets are also known to be allergy fighters. Contrary to what people may think, children who grow up with pets are not more likely to have pet allergies. Studies have proven that children who grow up with pets have a lower risk for allergies and even asthma. They also are less likely to have eczema, a common skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, these children have higher levels of some immune system chemicals that are a sign of strong immune system activation.
Although pets can have a positive effect on your health, they are a long-term commitment. Cats and dogs can live 12 to 15 years, or longer. Having a pet also requires financial investment, between food and regular vet visits, and a time commitment to properly care for it.