The Health Benefits of Owning A Dog

Dogs may do more than make you happy –   growing evidence suggests that they may improve an owner’s heart health, according to experts from Harvard Medical School.

The experts say that although pet ownership – especially ownership of a dog – is likely associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, they also caution that there isn’t a clear cause and effect relationship. But, they say, owning a pet can be part of an overall strategy to lower heart disease risk.

Studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than those who don’t own dogs. The experts from Harvard say this might be because pets have a calming effect and because dog owners tend to get more exercise. Additionally, studies have shown that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog.

And there is some evidence that owning a dog is linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. But the reason for that isn’t yet clear.

Dogs’ calming effect also appears to act as a de-stressing technique. For example, the Harvard experts say, research indicates that dog owners have less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. In other words, their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly.

Of course, the experts say, pets shouldn’t be adopted for the purpose of reducing heart disease risk. You should also avoid owning a dog if you aren’t ready or able to take care of a pet, including making sure the dog gets enough exercise.

To learn more about the health benefits of owning a dog, buy Get Healthy, Get a Dog, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.