There is no love quite like a pet’s love. After a long day at work, coming home to a happy pet can really change your mood. But a better mood isn’t the only positive effect that comes from knowing the love of a pet. In fact, researchers have found that owning a dog or cat can actually provide real heart health benefits.
The research is real
A number of studies have shown positive correlations between pet ownership and an owner’s overall heart health. The American Heart Association concluded that owning a pet was “probably associated” with a reduced risk of heart disease, while Swedish researchers found that pet owners are less likely to die from heart disease than their non-pet-owning counterparts.
The study by Swedish researchers analyzed medical data and pet ownership records of 3.4 million middle-aged men and women, paying close attention to the effects of ownership on rates of heart disease, mortality and causes of death.
What did they find?
The Swedish study, in particular, found that pet owners were not only 36 percent less likely to die from heart disease, but 33 percent less likely to die from all causes. The study found a connection between pet ownership and health benefits such as lower rates of mortality and smaller rates of heart disease.
Many studies also correlate pet ownership with higher rates of physical activity, which makes sense because owners walk and play with their dogs on a regular basis. Owning a dog or cat can also reduce stress and anxiety, which can have a positive impact on heart health.
Beyond heart health
There are a number of other factors that must be considered when looking at the risk of heart disease. While pets can certainly decrease your risks in some ways, an overall healthy lifestyle significantly impacts your outcomes. Eating a low-fat diet made of lean meats, fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains, as well as regular exercise, are consistently recommended ways to strengthen your heart and protect it from disease. Studies on the health benefits of pets simply lengthen the list of reasons why owning a pet is great. Not only do they offer unconditional love, loyalty and happiness, they also can help increase your activity, reduce stress and potentially- with the addition of a healthy lifestyle- help prevent heart disease.