Dogs Can Make You Healthier

In Health on August 14, 2011 at 1:47 am

While most dog owners are clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with companion animals, many remain unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that can also accompany the pleasure of playing with or snuggling up to a furry friend. It’s only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond. Studies have found that:

People who interact with dogs regularly are less likely to suffer from depression than those without access to them.
People who interact with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those who do not.
Playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
People who regularly interact with dogs have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those who don’t.
Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.
People over the age 65 who regularly interact with dogs make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those who do not.

One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most dogs fulfill the basic human need to touch. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with dogs, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed. The companionship of a dog can also ease loneliness, and are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost mood.

Don’t have access to a dog? Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate.

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