There is a growing body of evidence that owning a pet, particularly a dog, can decrease cardiovascular risk. That is not to say that if you are battling with heart disease getting a dog is the answer to all your problems – not at all – but rather that there are correlations between pet ownership and a reduction in the risk of heart disease. In this article, we unpick four of the most significant reasons behind this association.
1) Increased physical activity: pet owners, particularly dog owners, are more active.
If you own a dog, you are very likely to be more active than a non-dog owner and there is a higher chance that you are achieving the recommended amount of physical exercise to keep you healthy. Walking with your dog can result in weight loss, which is good for cardiovascular health.
2) Lower blood pressure levels.
Recent research has shown that owning a pet can lower your blood pressure. This is thought to be because when you ‘pet’ your dog or cat, the act of stroking the animal, of physical touch, or just having them sit next to you or even look at you adoringly, releases oxytocin. This is the same hormone that reduces stress and can lower blood pressure – again all good news for your heart.
Keeping your pets comfortable! Founding Consultant Dr. Jonathan Hasleton & his Veterinary Surgeon wife Dr. Emma Hasleton [BSc(Hons), BVSc, CertAVP(GSAS), PGCertVPS, MRPharmS, MRCVS], use Scruffs® beds to keep their feline friends cosy and warm.
3) Helps with social connection.
Owning a dog, cat or other pet helps people feel less isolated as a pet can make an excellent companion. This relationship promotes a sense of belonging and responsibility which is good for self-esteem, lowering blood pressure and overall well-being. Dog walkers often talk to other dog walkers whilst they are out and about, increasing social contact. Having a dog or cat in your life often encourages playfulness, which is again mood enhancing and can help ward off depression that can come from loneliness. These social factors also play their part in reducing risk of coronary disease.
4) Reduces stress levels.
Owning a pet can help you to be more mindful, to be present in the moment. This wards off anxiety and negative thinking and can bring a sense of peace. Once again this helps with lowering blood pressure and is also thought to help reduce cholesterol levels.
At Venturi Cardiology, many of us are pet owners and we all understand the blessing that having a pet can be. Alongside the clear benefits of pet ownership, we would also recommend several other lifestyle changes which can have a positive impact on your heart health. If you have any concerns about cardiovascular disease, perhaps you are suffering from symptoms or someone close to you has recently been unwell with a heart condition, we would recommend that you register your interest with us here.