For anyone who has ever owned a pet, you know how much a part of your family that pet can be and how close to your heart you hold them; but did you know that pet ownership has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease?
Recent research released by the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that if you want to live longer, then getting a pet may be a great idea for you. Their research shows that the risk of heart disease is significantly reduced for pet owners, as well as the risk of other lifestyle diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
An interesting aspect to the findings is that dog ownership shows the strongest correlation with reduced disease. Could this be because dog owners tend to need to get out more and exercise their dog? Well, of the more than 5,200 American adults who were surveyed in the study, dog owners were shown to be overall more physically active than other pet or non-pet owners, leading to better overall fitness and a decreased risk of lifestyle-related diseases. More credence for the term ‘man’s best friend’!
If you’re not a ‘dog person’, there is still evidence to suggest that pet ownership is good for your heart too. Researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo found that the stress response for pet owners was less for performing a task while their pet was present. Stress has of course been linked in previous studies to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and negative stress responses such as over-eating or insomnia. All of these things put greater strain on your heart and overall health, meaning pet owners who are better able to cope with stress will have lowered lifestyle disease risk.
Research has shown that the loyalty and love a pet can display for their owner significantly reduces risk of stress, depression, anxiety and loneliness. Conversely, pet ownership can increase feelings of well-being and self-esteem – more good news for your heart!
It has also been suggested in studies that owning a pet could be better for reducing your stress levels than spending time with friends and family. Of course, pets do not tend to make people feel like they are being judged, or are under some kind of duty or obligation, and they are always supportive!
The stability provided by pets may be another factor in their ability to reduce stress in their owners. Pets tend to have relatively consistent behaviors and routines, adding a comforting predictability to their owners lives.
In terms of the links between pet ownership and heart disease, there is another area that is in need of further research; that is, will pet ownership have any effect on current cardiovascular patients who become pet owners?