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Pets and Heart Health

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The Benefits of Pets on Your Heart's Health. 


In 1964, a child psychologist named Boris Levinson coined the term “pet therapy” after he realized that his dog, Jingles, was instrumental in getting his patients to feel more comfortable in speaking to him. The children would interact with Jingles directly, allowing the doctor to make a connection. But Dr. Levinson wasn’t the first to use dogs to help people recover from illnesses. That distinction may belong to Florence Nightingale, the renowned nurse, who used pets with wounded soldiers in the early 19th century to help speed the healing process.


Today, it's been shown that heart attack patients recover faster and live longer when they have pets at home. Even petting your dog can help lower your blood pressure. The latter can be attributed to the release of oxytocin, known best at the cuddle hormone.


The Cuddle Hormone and Cuddling Your Dog or Cat.


Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, is so named because of the role it plays in moms bonding with their new babies. An animal behaviorist at Azabu University in Japan wondered if the same might be true for humans bonding with canines. Kikusui studied 30 people and their pets, watching for mutual gazing – that wondrous feeling you get from just looking into your dog’s or cat’s eyes – and found that it had a profound effect. Both male and female dog owners experienced a 300 percent increase in the hormone. Even male and female dogs experienced a 130 percent rise.


Dogs especially have a calming effect. Some research even suggests that people with dogs are less likely to experience an increased heart rate or blood pressure elevations in times of stress, and that both are more likely to return to normal levels quickly. This reduces the overall levels of stress on the body and helps the heart stay healthy.


Pets and Your Heart.


The American Heart Association says that owning a pet is associated with reducing your risk of heart disease and, helps lowering unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A pet can even help you to survive a heart attack, should you experience one. This might be attributed to the fact that people who have pets tend to be a bit more active. People with dogs especially tend to walk more – not that you should have a dog just to reduce your risk of heart disease.


Pets and Your Mental Health.


There are also psychological benefits to having a pet, including less loneliness, anxiety, and depression. This can largely be attributed to the idea of living in the moment. If you have a dog or a cat, you can probably relate to occasionally stopping the madness of your daily life and just watching them. They live completely in the now. There’s a lesson there for all of us.


Slow Down. You Move too Fast.


Simon & Garfunkel recorded a song in 1966 called Feeling Groovy. The lyrics were decidedly not profound, and yet gain tremendous meaning when you stop and think about them. “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.” Take time to enjoy your life, improve your health and thus your heart.


According to the Humane Society of the US, in 2015, Americans owned 78.2 million dogs and 86.4 million cats. If you’re lucky enough to have a dog or a cat or multiples of each or both, you know about feeling groovy.


Pets can:

  • Make you happier, lessen depression, and improve your outlook on life
  • Decrease loneliness and isolation by giving you a companion
  • Reduce boredom
  • Reduce anxiety because of its calming effects
  • Improve the relationship between you and your doctor. No really.


All this and they’re good for your heart. What’s not to love?

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