With their wagging tails and human-like expressions, it’s no wonder so many people turn to dogs for companionship. But what dog owners may not know is that their four-legged friends have a positive impact on their heart health. Here are the surprising ways having a pooch can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Over the last few decades …
Many studies have been done on the connection between pet ownership and cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association says. It has been found that dog owners in particular have a lower risk of heart disease. While there isn’t a clear-cut connection between the two, there are a couple aspects that experts believe make dogs beneficial to your heart health.
The physical aspect
The Harvard Health blog explains that dog owners are more likely to get exercise due to walking their dogs. However, actually walking your dog is key here. The American Heart Association points to one study showing that owners who walk their dogs “are more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity.” All that walking has also been connected to dog owners having lower blood pressure. While we’re on the subject …
The link to blood pressure …
Getting exercise isn’t the only reason dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure. Research has suggested that talking to and petting your dog is actually better for your heart rate and stress levels than talking to another human. Touch was revealed to be the biggest factor, suggesting that petting your dog is better for your blood pressure than anything else.
… and stress
Petting your pooch is also good for your brain, WebMD points out. Pet contact helps to release relaxation hormones that soothe the body. Moreover, contact with your dog reportedly lowers the production of adrenals in the brain, making dogs the ultimate stress-fighter.
If you already have cardiovascular issues …
You aren’t out of luck if you have a dog and have developed heart disease. The AHA points out that pet owners with heart problems are potentially more likely to survive a heart attack. Heart attack survivors are also more likely to live longer if they have a pet, WebMD says.
Other health factors
Owning a dog has also been linked to other health-related factors, although that evidence is more circumstantial. There has been evidence that connects dog owners to having lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, the connection is unclear, and engaging in other healthy lifestyle choices may also play a part.
Thinking about adoption?
If this evidence has you rushing out the door to adopt a dog, you should stop and think about your reasoning. You shouldn’t adopt a dog just for your own heart health — especially if you aren’t going to make other lifestyle changes. “If someone adopts a pet,” Baylor School of Medicine professor Dr. Levine tells The New York Times, “but still sits on the couch and smokes and eats whatever they want and doesn’t control their blood pressure… That’s not a prudent strategy to decrease their cardiovascular risk.” Besides, you should be adopting a dog so you can give it a good home and plenty of love.