All pet lovers know that their furry friends make them happier, but did you know they can make you healthier too? Recent research proves that having pets can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. While some seem obvious—such as the exercise you get from walking your dog around the block—there are others that may surprise you.
Oxytocin, a powerful neurochemical that brings feelings of joy, is released simply by looking at your pet. Additionally, being around pets also leads to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.
The American Heart Association states that because of a combination of increased fitness and lowered stress, blood pressure, and cholesterol, your overall risk for cardiovascular disease is reduced as well when you own a pet.
Social Connection and Support
A recent study of young adults found that the ones who had deep bonds with their pets were more connected in their other relationships as well—whether they were romantic, friendly, or familial. This is because pet owners tend to be more confident and empathetic. Additionally, pets can help you connect with other people you might not otherwise.
Immune System Health
A recent study discovered that babies who were exposed to pets before they were six months old were less likely to develop allergic disease, hay fever, or eczema as they grew older. Additionally, children who are regularly exposed to dogs in the household during the first year of their life are less likely to have allergies, asthma, or upper respiratory infections. This is because exposure to dander and allergens at an early age strengthens the immune system.
A recent study by the Australian National Heart Foundation showed that people who owned pets (especially men) tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This is probably due to daily walks and other activities you do for your pet.
Blood Pressure Reduction
Petting your dog or cat is a therapeutic act that will naturally lower your blood pressure. One study looked at people already taking medication for hypertension and discovered that their blood pressure response to stress was cut in half if they owned a dog or cat.
Pet owners tend to have a better overall sense of wellbeing compared to non-owners. According to the British Psychological Society, dogs in particular promote therapeutic and psychological wellbeing by lowering stress levels, boosting self-esteem, and bringing about feelings of autonomy and competence. Especially for people who are depressed, animals can have a very calming presence and create a social bond that gives them something else to focus on instead of the negative thoughts.
Chronic Pain Relief
Just as pets can help distract from depressive thoughts, the simple task of caring for a pet can also help distract you from chronic pain. Additionally, petting your animal releases endorphins, which can be powerful pain relievers. People who are hospitalized for surgical procedures report needing less pain relievers when they receive pet therapy as well.
Since pets are so sensitive to their owners’ behavior, this can be very beneficial, especially for someone who suffers from diabetes. There are several organizations that specifically train dogs to aid detecting blood sugar changes. This is because when blood sugar levels get low, the smell of your breath will change, which dogs are able to pick up on if they are trained to do so. Not only can dogs make you feel better about your life, but they could also potentially save it.