February is American Heart Month – and did you know that your pet could be good for your heart?
It’s true – more and more studies are showing that having a pet can benefit your cardiac health. For example:
- Petting or playing with a dog or cat elevate your serotonin and dopamine levels, which help to reduce stress and increase calmness and your sense of wellbeing.
- Being with your pet also helps lower blood pressure and pulse.
- Dog owners, in particular, get more exercise. While it is unclear if active people are more likely to have dogs, or if dog owners are more likely to be active, either way, more physical activity is always a good thing when it comes to your heart.
- One study from 2008 showed that cat owners are 30% less likely to have a heart attack than people who don’t have a cat.
- A study in the American Journal of Cardiology also found that people who have pets are more likely to survive for more than a year following a heart attack.
- Another from 2005 found that contact with dogs helped improve heart and lung function in people with heart failure.
- A study from the University of Buffalo found that, not only do pets help you manage stress levels overall, but that having a dog or cat can help you remain calm in stressful situations. The effect was even stronger than the effect of some medications.
- Some studies even link pet ownership with lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, although more research is needed to explore this.
- Pets are good for your mental health – which is also good for your heart. Depression, loneliness, and anxiety all contribute to higher stress hormone levels and blood pressure. The companionship and unconditional love provided by a pet has been shown to ease many of these symptoms.
While you probably already knew that life is just better with your pets, now there is plenty of scientific proof that you were right! So this February, while thinking about your heart health, give your pets an extra hug for their contributions.