There are many benefits to adopting a dog. You get to feel good about saving a life, enjoy the pure joy of dog ownership, build a human-animal bond with a loyal and faithful companion, and many more. However, did you know that dog ownership might also benefit your heart health?
This article will explore a few of the research-backed ways that bringing a dog into your life might actually boost your cardiovascular health. Great news given that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans, according to the CDC.
1: Increased Physical Activity Levels
Getting more physically fit does not have to include a $90 a month gym membership you are never going to use. Dogs can actually be a healthy and motivating part of getting more active in our daily lives without it feeling like a chore.
Research has shown that dog owners clock more daily steps than their non-dog-owning counterparts. It is no secret why. When your furry friend gives you those puppy dog eyes to let you know that it is time for a walk, it is hard to resist. Plus, our dogs help us find a way to enjoy this leisurely yet important aerobic exercise so that it is a rewarding experience to get off the couch.
But it goes beyond the benefits of a few daily walks. Many pet owners find themselves taking on new interests and hobbies to satisfy their dog’s need for adventure. Examples include hiking, swimming, and getting out to enjoy all of the wonders of the great outdoors.
Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle factors you can choose to reduce your risks of cardiovascular disease. With your furry companion at your side, getting up and moving can be a fun and enjoyable routine.
2: Decreased Heart Rates and Blood Pressure
Multiple research studies have shown that spending time with dogs can have an immediate effect on two of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease: Blood pressure and heart rates. While dog ownership is not a cure for heart disease, their ability to naturally calm the circulatory system just by their presence in our lives has been measured as significant.
Of course, you don’t have to adopt a dog to experience these benefits. If you are not in a place in your life where you can regularly meet a dog’s needs for exercise and companionship, consider spending time with a friend or family member’s canine instead. Another option? Volunteer to walk dogs at your local animal shelter to benefit from a little more exercise and the blood pressure and heart rate benefits of time spent with canine companions.
3: Increased Social Activity
Some studies have shown that dog ownership can be associated with higher levels of social activity and a sense of community. This is particularly true when neighbourhoods adopt dog-friendly amenities such as walking trails and dog parks.
Turns out that dogs not only give us an excuse to spend time around other dog lovers, they also help to “break the ice” in social situations around new people by giving us a lively topic of conversation to share about. Who doesn’t love talking about their dog with another dog lover?
Positive social interactions can ease feelings of social isolation, depression, and other negative emotional states. This body of research has shown this effect may be particularly felt among seniors, a population of people who may be particularly well-served by dog-friendly communities.
4: Decreased Stress Levels
One of the ways researchers measure stress is through the changes in hormones such as cortisol and oxytocin. Several studies have shown that spending time playing with or even just petting a dog can lower stress hormones and raise pleasure hormones in the bloodstream.
Perhaps even more exciting is that this effect seems to happen to both people and dogs when the human-animal bond is reinforced through positive interactions!
Managing stress is a major factor in controlling the lifestyle factors for cardiovascular health. Maybe it is time to take advantage of the stress-relieving benefits of dog ownership in your life!
5: Increased Recovery After Coronary Events
Finally, one of the most interesting findings of research on dog’s impact on human health has to do with how well we recover from illness, surgery, and specifically, after a major coronary event such as heart attack or stroke.
A recent study used a huge body of data to uncover the benefits of dog ownership for patients recovering from heart attacks and strokes. Quite surprisingly, dog owners show several signs of improved recovery including lower rates of hospitalization and significantly higher survival rates when compared to their non-dog owning counterparts.
Dogs benefit our lives in many ways. However, understanding the role they can play in improving our overall health, and in particular, our cardiovascular health, may just be the best reason yet to adopt a dog!
About the Author
Susan Elber is a professional writer with a Masters in Science Studies from Virginia State University, she has also worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.