You know your fur babies are great for snuggles and squirrel patrol. But did you know pets — dogs especially — are good for your heart? According to the American Heart Association, owning a dog may decrease your risk for heart disease and cardiovascular events. Here are some of the reasons why researchers are drawing this conclusion:
- More exercise. Dog owners typically get more exercise than non-owners. When Fido needs to be walked, it means you need to get out and move, too.
- Lower blood pressure. Dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure on average than non-owners, according to several studies. Research shows that blood pressure may also go down when someone pets a dog.
- Better cholesterol levels. Dog owners may also have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels that are not explained by diet, smoking or BMI, according to one study, although the reasons for this are not clear.
- Better reaction to stress. Dogs have been shown to have a calming effect on people. When petting a dog, your body releases relaxation hormones and reduces levels of stress hormones. Research shows that being around dogs may make heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly when stressed.
- More social connection. Having a dog makes it easier for you to connect with other people – and social interaction is good for your mental and physical health.
- Increased happiness. People with pets may be happier, more trusting and less lonely than those who don’t own pets, according to research. When you’re happier, it’s good for your heart in more ways than one.
So the next time your floors are covered in muddy paw prints or your shoes are mistaken for chew toys, this is just one more reminder that it’s all worth it!
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