We all know our pets warm our hearts with their unconditional love and acceptance, but do you know how good they are for the physical health of our hearts as well?
- Pet owners have lower blood pressures, lower cholesterol levels, and lower triglyceride levels than non-pet owners, all of which reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These markers also decrease after pet adoption. (American Heart Association)
- When pet owners encounter physical or psychological stress, they show smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure and a faster return to baseline values after the stress has ended. The reactivity to stress is even lower and recovery faster when the person’s own pet is present. This resilience in the face of stress reduces cardiovascular risk. (American Heart Association)
- Petting and stroking a dog or cat decreases levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases levels of Serotonin (the “feel good” hormone). (Cleveland Clinic) Petting an animal also releases Oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding. (Scientific American) All of these chemical reactions benefit heart health and create a sense of physical and mental well-being as a bonus.
When we open our hearts to our pets, they may repay us by helping to keep those very same hearts healthy. In return for our care of them, our pets can take care of us, not only emotionally, but physically.