3 Tender Ways Pets Benefit Your Heart Health

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Pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides than people who don’t own pets. And people with existing heart issues tend to live longer when they own a pet, compared to people with heart issues who don’t have a pet.

Because this is American Heart Month, let’s take a moment to thank our pets for boosting our heart health in these three important ways:

1) Less Anxiety

Cats and dogs not only like to be petted, but our hearts like us to pet them, too. It’s a symbiotic relationship of sorts in that while we’re soothing our pets, we’re soothing ourselves. The act of petting, on its own, lowers stress hormones and instead releases “happy” hormones, like oxytocin, dopamine, and norephinephrine, in our bodies and brains that induce a feeling of bonding, love, relaxation, and general chill-out.

These hormones are also good for pain relief, which is partly why pet therapy works so well.

2) More Social Benefits

Need an ice breaker? Pets serve as both a social conduit and a social outlet. This means our pets provide us with a way to connect with other people, whether at the dog park, a pet store, or through online forums with a shared interest. Additionally, sociological research is increasingly looking at pets as meaningful members of humans’ communities, which means they not only lead us to other people to become social with, but they also are included, on par with humans, within our social network.

3) More Exercise

While you can certainly take your cat, iguana, or another pet for a walk, dogs especially are helpful for making their humans get exercise. Walking your dog everyday keeps your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides in check.

Even if you don’t own a dog, there’s activity in caring for our pets, whether feeding and watering or cleaning out their cage or litter box or even petting our cat or parrot. While this exercise may not be as vigorous as cholesterol-lowering dog walking but it can be enough to boost brain chemicals for people who struggle with depression. Daily caretaking activity can lessen depression, which in itself is an important risk factor of hypertension and high cholesterol.