Having a furry companion to keep you company can do many wonders. It fights off loneliness and can actually be good for your emotional and psychological health.
The benefits of owning a pet, in fact, are well documented in scientific literature. However, can pet ownership be good for your physical health? More specifically, does it contribute to heart health?
The Link Between Pets and Heart Health
There is research that examines the connection between heart health and having a pet in the home. A 2020 study revealed that dog owners, in particular, were at a lower risk of hypertension.
Another study found that male dog owners had lower LDL cholesterol levels on average. High blood pressure and high “bad” cholesterol levels are both precursors for heart disease.
How Does Pet Ownership Improve Heart Function?
The Physical Impact of Pet Ownership
The “how” of pet ownership and heart health involves multiple variables. For starters, pet owners tend to be more physically active.
A report from Harvard Health revealed that dog owners walked an average of 20 minutes more per day than non-dog owners. This makes sense, considering that walking your dog is part of the responsibility of a pet owner.
The Emotional Impact of Pet Ownership
There are also various emotional factors associated with pet ownership. For people who live alone, pets may reduce the effects of social isolation. One study conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that pet owners reported feeling less lonely.
The effects were the same regardless of pet type. Why is this relevant? A report published in Harvard Health reported a 29% increase in heart attacks and a 32% increase in stroke in subjects feeling socially isolated.
Finally, pet owners, or dog owners, to be specific, often walk their dogs in locations like parks and wooded areas. Being in the presence of nature can have therapeutic effects and be a major stress reliever. Of course, you don’t need a dog to venture out to mother nature, but a furry friend gives you an extra reason to do so.
Science Further Validates Animal Therapy
There are organizations that run animal-assisted therapy centers due to the medically-proven benefits of animal companionship.
One study published in the American Journal of Critical Care found that a single 12-minute session with a therapy dog was enough to improve the condition of patients hospitalized for heart failure.
Which Pet is Best for Heart Health?
Different pets appeal to different people. You may be a dog person or a cat person. Don’t forget that pets also include smaller varieties that reside in a cage, such as hamsters and rabbits.
Choices also include feathered and scaled varieties like birds, turtles, and an assortment of lizards. Some people find great companionship in animals they can hold in the palm of their hand. It’s a matter of personal preference.
A Note on Dog Ownership
As mentioned, canines may have an additional advantage since dog walking constitutes heart-healthy exercise. If you choose a dog, be mindful of the breed. Larger breeds may be more than some people can handle.
Smaller breeds like chihuahuas and Pomeranians may be less maintenance and more beginner-friendly. However, they may be a trip hazard, especially for seniors. When selecting a canine type, research their general personalities, care demands, and ease of training.
Read also: Tips to Getting and Staying Heart Healthy
Pets Contribute to Heart Health
Many people regard pets as friends and even part of the family. A faithful and non-judgmental pet by your side can be a strong source of companionship. This can contribute to your emotional well-being, in turn improving heart function.
Pet owner or not, it’s important to visit a heart doctor near you in Lafayette, LA, if you’re over the age of 50, and/or have a family history or heart-related symptoms. Be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Corwin A Thomas today for regular screening. We have been providing quality care and consultation in Lafayette for more than 15 years. Our staff is well qualified to teach you about habits that will develop your cardiovascular health.