Almost every pet owner out there will tell you that their animal companion enriches their life in more ways than they can count, but it turns out that pets actually help prolong their lives, too. Numerous studies have shown that having pets helps lower our stress levels, decrease blood pressure, benefit our cholesterol, improve our mood, and boost our immunity – in other words, lengthen our life span!
Heart-healthy Benefits of Animals
Our animal friends often warm our hearts, but according to studies, they also protect them. A study reported in the Medical Journal of Australia found that pet owners generally have lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels than people who do not own pets. Having a cat companion could cut your heart attack risk by nearly one-third! According to a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, which followed more than 4000 cat owners over a period of 10 years, being a feline owner can significantly decrease the chance of dying from heart disease. Pet owners have also been found to recover more speedily after surgery.
Man's Best Friend Motivates You to Move
Who needs a fitness coach when you have a dog? Nothing is more motivational to get moving than a dog’s yearning expression that says, “Take me out!” People with dogs exercise more consistently than dog-free people – and the benefits to your long-term health are many! First of all, you fit in 20 or more minutes of solid walking every day, a low-impact exercise that benefits your heart. You also get your daily dose of sunshine every day, which boosts your mood and supplies you with vitamin D. And you receive the uplifting, stress-busting benefits of being outdoors. What’s not to love?
Animal Pals Help Us Stay Healthy
People with pets seem to enjoy better overall health. Researchers know that joy and laughter trigger the release of chemicals in the brain that enhance your immune function. Pets make us smile and laugh with their amusing antics and lovable gestures. And petting something furry is a proven immune boost. A Wilkes University study found that stroking a dog for 18 minutes caused a significant increase in secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), your body’s natural antibody against invading germs. Another study found that people with pets make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious medical conditions. A household pet could be just what the doctor ordered!
Less Stress With Pets
A bad day can instantly dissolve when you get home from work to be greeted by a loving friend who is happy to see you. The benefits of de-stressing don’t end there: interaction with pets reduces overall levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A study that recorded the neural activity in seniors while they walked with a pooch found that this gave them a boost in parasympathetic nervous system activity, the system that helps calm and rest the body. Less stress equals a longer life, so keep good company.
No Pet? Don’t Fret!
Many shelters allow people to volunteer, working with the animals and walking the dogs. You can also offer to pet-sit for friends. If you are trying to decide whether a pet is right for you, be mindful that pets do add to your daily responsibilities. For many, the benefits more than make up for the added costs and extra duties, but decide carefully for yourself, because being a pet guardian is a long-term commitment – albeit with long-term rewards!