by Women's Health Updated 12/2021
How can your heart not melt when you see that wagging tail, smiling face, and soft eyes? The love of a dog is enough to soften even the hardest of hearts, but that’s not exactly what we’re talking about here.
Did you know that having a dog can help your heart physically, too? It’s true, and it’s got the science to back it up!
If you haven’t got a dog yet, you may want to consider adopting one! Here are just a few of the ways having a dog can help your heart stay healthy.
They Keep You Active
Multiple scientific studies show that dog owners are more physically active than those who don’t have dogs. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity level, which is just over 20 minutes a day.
Studies have shown that even moderate exercise, if done regularly, can be beneficial to one’s cardiovascular health. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the 5 risk factors that increase one’s chances of suffering from heart disease. So are high blood pressure and obesity, and all three of these can be negated simply by getting your recommended level of activity per week.
It’s so much easier to get out and workout—even if it’s just a walk around the block—when you’re walking with your dog. How can you say no to those cute pleading eyes asking for walkies? Even if you can’t get out and about, a bit of a wrestle or tug-of-war can also count as aerobic exercise if you do it with enough intensity.
They Keep Stress Levels Down
A 2017 study concluded that the overall life satisfaction of dog owners is higher than that of people who don’t have dogs. But even more than that, other research indicates that dogs can help reduce stress, and lower anxiety and depression.
Interacting with your pup causes oxytocin to be released in the brain. This is one of the “happy chemicals” in the brain and is also linked to a reduction in cortisol—the stress hormone.
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Stress and anxiety—high cortisol levels—lead to a number of different health problems, which in turn increase the chance of developing cardiovascular disease. It goes without saying, then, that your dog’s presence helps to keep your heart safer!
They Provide Non-Judgmental Support
If you’re already struggling with cardiovascular disease, then a support system is absolutely imperative. Your dog can be part of that! They’re loving, affectionate, calm, and totally non-judgemental.
Your dog is also an excellent way to keep your mind on positive things. Keeping a routine and having the responsibility of feeding, caring for, and loving an adorable fluffy creature can help you keep a sense of control, which is invaluable for those who are already dealing with heart disease.
Now that you know how having a dog can help your heart, go and give your pup some love! If you don’t have a dog, then you may want to seriously consider adopting one, whether or not you feel your heart needs it now.
In a world where our go-to solutions are chemicals or synthetic medications, doesn’t a fluffy, bouncy, loving living creature sound like a better option to improve your health?
Of course, if you’re already on meds for your heart, please don’t stop taking them! But just the presence of your pooch can make a big difference to your heart in more ways than one. Give your pup a treat and some love, because they’re playing a significant part in improving your life and health!
- American Heart Association. “How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-infographic#:~:text=Get%20at%20least%20150%20minutes.
- ---. “Stress and Heart Health.” Www.heart.org, 2010, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health.
- Cutt, Hayley, et al. “Understanding Dog Owners’ Increased Levels of Physical Activity: Results from RESIDE.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 98, no. 1, Jan. 2008, pp. 66–69, https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2006.103499.
- Myers, Jonathan. “Exercise and Cardiovascular Health.” Circulation, vol. 107, no. 1, Jan. 2003, https://doi.org/10.1161/01.cir.0000048890.59383.8d.
- Petersson, Maria, et al. “Oxytocin and Cortisol Levels in Dog Owners and Their Dogs Are Associated with Behavioral Patterns: An Exploratory Study.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 8, Oct. 2017, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01796.
- Singh, Kshitija, and Shailendra Sharma. “Role of Dogs in Life Satisfaction and Stress Reduction: A Comparative Study.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IOSR-JHSS, vol. 21, no. 2, Ver. III, 2016, pp. 35–39, https://doi.org/10.9790/0837-21233539.