Guest Blog Post By Payal Bhandari M.D.

We all know dogs are man’s best friend. But did you know dogs can also be your heart’s best friend? Studies have shown owning a pet – especially a dog – can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are many reasons that can explain this link, but the general understanding is dog owners tend to exercise more regularly and lead a healthier lifestyle. Pets provide social support to their owners and help them stick with a new habit. So if you start the healthy habit of walking your dog on a daily basis, you can be sure your dog will hold you to it.

A scientific statement released by the American Heart Association (AHA) describes how studies found ownership of dogs can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Physical Activity

An online survey in which 5,253 Japanese adults participated revealed that dog owners are physically more active than non-owners, and was 54% more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity.

Physical activity can lower your blood pressure and decrease the likelihood of becoming obese, which is good for your heart health. A daily 30 minute walk with your dog, and occasional bouts of playing fetch will increase your health.

Lower Stress Levels

Animals are very good at lowering your stress levels. Pets have a calming presence and are natural mood enhancers. They’re also very good listeners. When you feel stressed and have to get something off your chest, your pet will be happy to listen to your vent without judgment. Walking with your dog, petting, and hugging your pet will also reduce stress and lower your blood pressure.

Research suggests dog-owners’ heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal quicker during times of stress, compared to non-owners.

Mental Health

Pets can even have a positive effect on your mental health, and people who are mentally healthy tend to live longer.

Pets have helped many people suffering from anxiety or depression get better. When you have to care for a pet, it shifts the focus away from your own problems. Pets love their owners unconditionally, helping you feel better about yourself.

Pets also make you feel less lonely, making them the perfect companion for older and sick people, as well as single children. You’re also bound to be more social – strangers are more likely to interact with you while walking your dog.

Improve Your Heart Health with a Pet

The companionship a pet provides has many health benefits, but don’t get a pet just to reduce your heart disease risk. You need to be sure you’ll be able to provide, care, and play with your pet.

Few things are so uplifting than the excitement your pet shows greeting you when you come home. The powerful bond which can exist between pet and owner is therapeutic; pets are tuned in to understand your behavior and emotions, and know when you need extra love and support.

Consider adopting a pet if your heart health concerns you, or if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease. Your new best friend might just be the answer to living longer and being healthier.

About the Author

Payal Bhandari M.D. is a family physician at Advanced Health. She provides personalized, comprehensive primary care to families and individuals of all ages in San Francisco since 2005. Dr. Bhandari delivers integrative, holistic care which looks at the whole person. She is consistently able to understand the root cause of any illness and effectively transform health.

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