The short answer here is, yes. Dogs can have a profoundly positive effect on your health. Heart health is something that nearly everyone is aware of and if you aren’t, you should be. 1 in every 4 deaths is due to heart disease in the United States. That’s a staggering fact that no one should take lightly.
Whether you knew that before or not, we are going to cover the exact science and reasoning behind dogs improving your heart health. You and your ticker will thank me by the end of this article. Let’s dive in and see just how these furry friends and our hearts are intertwined.
Dogs Can Help With Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is that pesky reading that every person that is starting to age dreads. If you are lucky or take really good care of yourself, you probably won’t have much of an issue here but there is an overwhelming amount of people who do struggle to keep their blood pressure down.
Now, you probably know that your dog can make you feel great. In fact, they can make you feel down right extraordinary some days. Now we have scientific evidence to back that. Owning a dog can lower your blood pressure by as much as 3.34 mmHg. That may seem like a small number but here’s some more statistics to show how that will affect your heart.
“even a 2 mm reduction in systolic blood pressure is associated with a 6 percent reduction in stroke, a 4 percent reduction in coronary heart disease and a 3 percent reduction in overall mortality.” – The Columbus Dispatch February 28, 2016
That is a huge difference! That all comes from just owning your dog. Now, there is a lot that goes into owning a dog so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which feature will drop your blood pressure. Scientists best guess? It’s a combination of all that goes into taking care of your dog that does it.
They Can Help Reduce Cholesterol
Cholesterol is almost a common vocabulary word if you are over age 60. It’s a huge risk factor for having a heart attack. Because of that, many people get very worked up over a high or bad cholesterol reading.
In fact, “71 million American adults (33.5%) have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol.” -CDC. Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. United States, 1999–2002 and 2005–2008. MMWR. 2011;60(4):109–14.
The good news is, having a dog can help decrease your cholesterol. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that owning a pet can decrease cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.”- https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/pets-can-reduce-stress-cholesterol-obesity/
Again, this is a combination of taking care of the dog and what that all entails. You don’t just get your cholesterol lowered by a dog sitting near you. I still think it’s worth getting a dog to see those numbers drop and to tell your doctor why.
Best of all, if you do end up having a heart attack, owning a dog is going to increase your chances for survival. “Social support and pet ownership, a nonhuman form of social support, have both been associated with increased coronary artery disease survival. What an excellent reason to own a dog or get one after you have a heart attack!
I think this is probably the most obvious form of heart disease prevention, treatment, and healing- walking your dog. Even the act of taking your dog out a couple of times is a great way to get some more steps in. Most people need about 2.5 hours of exercise per week. Even if you take your dog on a few 15-minute walks per week, you are going to hit that goal.
Increasing your physical activity will help lower your risk for heart disease and also help with excess weight gain. In fact, the CDC announced, “What’s more, dog owners who have suffered from a heart attack have better survival rates following the event. In a 2009 study conducted at the UCLA Medical Center, heart failure patients who came in contact with therapy dogs for 12 minutes a day demonstrated notably reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety.”
Walking Toto is beneficial for your health and his making it a win-win. You can also just go walk dogs at a humane society a few times per week. The dogs will be super grateful and so will that heart of yours.
Dogs Help Your Stress Levels
I don’t know about you, but my stress level could use some work. Most people have stress in their life. That’s all we hear about anymore. Stress and self-care are hot topics. Our lives are super overwhelming and therefore our stress levels are usually sky high.
It’s no secret that stress and anxiety can contribute to heart disease. So, how does a dog decrease stress? My dog sometimes contributes to my stress, but I will have to say overall, they lower it. Just one look at those puppy eyes and wagging tail puts a smile on my face.
Dogs lower your stress by increasing your serotonin and dopamine levels. That warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see your dog after a long hard day? That’s not just love, it’s all sorts of dopamine coursing through you. That’s why they bring in service dogs to people that have stress issues. Just patting a dog or having one in the room with you can decrease stress and anxiety.
Who knew our beloved animals could be so beneficial for our heart physically? I think we all had some kind of inkling that emotionally they help us, but the facts don’t lie here. From blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, to physical health, our pooches have so many benefits for your cardiovascular system.
You don’t even have to own a dog to get these benefits, walk a friends or neighbors dog for them. Better yet, go walk those dogs without a home at the humane society. It’s going to bring you some joy as well as them. The verdict is in. Dogs really do improve our heart health.
Mark Hastings loves all kinds of pets, especially dogs. Mark challenges how to look after your pets better and give them a better night’s sleep on a comfy dog bed.