Are Pets Good for Your Heart?

Studies show that owning a pet can help you lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels—which directly benefit your heart health.

When you think about making healthy choices to lower your risk for heart disease, a few things come immediately to mind: eat more fruits and veggies; cut down on red meats and saturated fats; get more exercise; quit smoking, etc.

Should we also consider adopting a pet?

Studies show that owning a pet can help you lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels—which directly benefit your heart health. If your pet is a dog, the news is even better. Rover might actually help you live longer. Researchers studying a group of 421 adults who’d experienced a heart attack, found that those who owned dogs were significantly more likely to be alive a year later than those who did not own dogs—regardless of how serious their heart attack was.

The results of a large Michigan survey, tell us that dog owners are much more likely to get the government recommendation of at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, including moderately intense exercise. Another study showed that individuals who continued walking their dogs into their 70s and 80s could walk longer and faster and had greater mobility at home than others their age.

The health benefits of pet ownership go beyond our bodies

In addition to providing physical benefits, most kinds of pets can have a positive effect on our emotional well-being and even our social skills, according to psychologists. One study even found that just watching a Lassie movie can lower stress.

The calming effects of pets on your heart rate and blood pressure are even present during high-stress situations. And the company of our pets helps us to recover more quickly from a stressful event than the presence of either a friend or spouse.

Many hospitals, recognizing that an animal’s ability to calm and nurture is helpful to the healing process, offer pet therapy for patients. At Henry Ford Allegiance Health, a Great Pyrenees called Rose and Mexican Chihuahua sisters Daisy and Lilly are among a group of therapy dogs who make regular visits to both adult and pediatric patients. Click here to see a video of Rose at work.

Severe chest pain is not always present with a heart attack, especially for older adults, people with diabetes and women. They may experience sudden shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, fatigue or weakness. Don’t take a chance. Call 9-1-1.