Whether it’s Fido your canine companion or Felix your feline friend—or both—you are most likely reaping health benefits by having him or her as your pet. Why? Studies indicate that having a pet can help lower stress levels, can decrease blood pressure, can support healthy cholesterol levels, can improve our moods, boost our immunity and much more.
For example, many studies, including some via the National Institute of Health, say that dogs can offer great social support and stress relief—sometimes even better than family or friends can. Additionally, some studies even say that having a dog can control blood pressure better than prescription drugs are able to. Then there’s the exercise aspect. Those who own dogs exercise more consistently than those who don’t own dogs.
Some other health benefits from having a dog are:
• increased longevity after having a heart attack.
• lowered cholesterol and triglycerides.
• improved blood pressure.
• reduction of irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias.
• improved blood vessel function.
• increased physical activity as well as physical functioning.
• reduction of minor health difficulties.
• improved mood.
• boost in self esteem.
• improved alertness and attention in elderly people who own pets.
Having a cat as a pet has its perks, too. A study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, which followed more than 4,000 cat owners over a 10-year time period, found that owning a cat can greatly reduce a person’s chance of dying from heart disease. In fact, the study found that those who didn’t have cats were between 30 to 40 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than cat owners were. But were the same benefits found with owning dogs? Not so, according to the study.
Other benefits of having a feline friend—some of which mirror the benefits of having a dog as a pet—include:
• a reduction in heart attack and stroke risk.
• improved immune function.
• decreased chance of children developing allergies.
• helping to prevent asthma in children.
• reduced stress and anxiety.
• reduced blood pressure.
• lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
• help with autism (in some instances) and depression.
Likewise, pet ownership—in general—can reduce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, can boost your immune system and can aid the management of pain. Having a furry friend has also been found to reduce aggression, to build empathy and to improve learning, while fostering a greater sense of trust in others. Additionally, owning a pet can speed recovery following surgery.
So, if you haven’t thanked your pet lately for being such a wonderful companion, then give him or her an extra dose of appreciation for being a great addition to your overall health.