We’ve been bonding with our four-legged friends, and they with us, since our cave-dwelling days. And, whether you look at science or your own experience, the evidence is clear: Our pets take care of us as much as we do them!
Heart to Heart
The benefits of pet ownership on your cardiovascular system are many. Studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure rates, both at rest and during stressful times, than people who do not own pets.
The blood pressure rates of kids with hypertension were lowered when they interacted with their dogs. Cat owners have been found to suffer fewer strokes because of the calming effects of pet ownership on circulation.
For reasons still not clear, pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels than people who don’t have pets. That may explain, at least in part, why pet owners have been shown to have fewer heart attacks—as much as 40 percent fewer incidents of cardiac arrest, according to one 20-year study.
And the one-year survival rates post-heart attack were better for people whose households included a pet.
A Natural Pick-Me-Up
Just a few minutes with a pet is all it takes to lift your mood and ease depression. The time you spend focusing on your kitty or collie reduces stress. It lowers cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and increases serotonin and dopamine levels, natural chemicals known to improve well-being. Perhaps because it takes the emphasis off your problems, petting your pet calms you down and can help keep depression at bay.
Doggone It, Let’s Go for a Walk
You don’t have to pound the pavement, a vigorous stroll will do to keep you and Rover in shape. One 30-minute walk or two 15-minute walks per day will help you meet recommended goals for physical exercise.
You’ll also strengthen your bones (which wards off osteoporosis and minimizes fractures in us human types) and get vitamin D from the sunshine you’ll naturally absorb. People who own dogs are known to be more physically active and less obese than their dog-less counterparts.
Akitas, Allergies, and Asthma
Kids who grow up around animals—be they horses and cows on the farm or kittens and cocker spaniels at home—are less likely to develop allergies. They also display higher levels of immune system chemicals fortifying their immune systems to keep healthy.
And, as long as Mom doesn’t have a cat allergy, infants and children who are raised with a cat at home are less likely to develop asthma—even though pet allergies often trigger asthma in people who don’t have cats.
“Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership” by A. R. McConnell et al., J Pers and Soc Psychol, 12/11
“Pets Are Natural Mood Enhancers,” http://pets.webmd.com/ss/slideshow-pets-improve-your-health, 7/12
“The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Pets Are Good for Mental Health of ‘Everyday People,’” American Psychological Association, www.apa.org, 7/11
“Who’s Your Best Friend?” by Marc Joseph, www.huffingtonpost.com, 10/12