All pet parents know the feeling of your heart warming up when your canine companion gives you an adorable look or greets you with a wagging tail when you enter your home. What you might not know, though, is that having a dog can actually help your heart stay healthier.
In recent years, researchers have started paying more attention to the relationship between humans and their pets, and the effect this has on our health. And it seems the effects are very real and very positive. Here are 3 concrete ways canines help improve our cardiovascular health:
1. Dog Owners Get More Exercise
Getting some exercise every day can be greatly beneficial for our cardiovascular health. People often think of proper exercise as a strenuous activity that involves going to a gym or something similar, but actually just taking a walk for 30 minutes every day is much better than getting no physical activity.
And here is where our canine friends come into the equation: dog owners simply get more exercise overall. This has been proven time and time again by various studies. This study, for example, confirmed that getting a dog leads to walking 30 minutes more each day than before. Not only this, but dog owners tend to be more optimistic about walking and view it as a favorable activity.
After all, all of this makes sense intuitively and doesn’t need too much explaining. Walking around your neighbourhood each day alone might sound completely uninteresting and weird. Running is a good habit, but some days we just don’t feel like it. However, when you have a dog, you suddenly find yourself walking each day and getting your daily exercise.
“Dogs make us accountable, they rely on us to keep them healthy and happy and through that accountability we develop a habitual routine of exercise and outdoor activities that get them moving but also gets us moving, it’s a great relationship” Dr Dench – Veterinarian Adviser at Gentle Dog Trainers.
2. Having a Canine Companion Helps Control Your Blood Pressure
Interacting with your dog also seems to lower your blood pressure. This does not mean that the blood pressure of dog owners is generally lower, but it seems that having a pet around reduces the risks of hypertension. This study, for example, has shown that dogs can help us stay more calm, and eliminate the increases in blood pressure that tend to happen when we are agitated.
While some researchers, like the authors of this study, are sceptical about the relationship between dog ownership and blood pressure or hypertension, there seems to definitely be some truth in the claim that dogs help us stay more calm. This phenomenon is probably related to the ancient need for touch that both humans and dogs have. Just petting a friendly animal calms us down in a very real way, and this is an instinct we were all born with.
3. Dogs Make Us More Resilient to Stress
People who have dogs also seem to be more calm overall when facing stressful situations. Studies like this one, for example, show that when people are faced with stressful situations, those who have canine companions tend to have less extreme reactions or “less cardiovascular reactivity”. This means that their heart rate remains lower, as well as the blood pressure, when facing stressors – and both go back to normal much faster. In this way, dogs seem to protect us from the harmful effects of stress on our body, and especially the heart.
Dog ownership seems to be convincingly associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Although a causal relationship is hard to prove, researchers keep finding correlations between having a dog and having lower blood pressure, staying more active, and just being more calm overall. One way to ensure dog ownership is through acquiring an ESA Letter.
All in all, it seems that having a canine friend is a good strategy for fighting heart disease. This is not just wishful thinking of dog lovers – it seems that many experts agree with it too. In the light of the new scientific findings (some of which are mentioned above, the American Heart Association has issued a statement confirming dog ownership can help with prevention of heart disease.