5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health

health benefits of being a pet owner, benefits of pet ownership, living with pets

A pet is certainly a great friend. After a difficult day, pet owners quite literally feel the love. In fact, for over 25 years, research has shown that living with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. They can even help you get dates.

Check out these five Mindful benefits of pet ownership:

1. Allergy Fighters

According to WebMD, kids who grow up in a home with pets or on a farm with large animals are less likely to have allergies and asthma. In a related study, James E. Gern, M.D., a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He looked for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment. He found that if a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies. They also had a stronger immune system and were less likely to have eczema.

2. Date Magnets

Dogs are great for making love connections. They make a natural conversation starter, helping ease people out of social isolation or shyness. People ask about breed, they watch the dog’s tricks,” Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, tells WebMD, “Sometimes the conversation stays at the ‘dog level,’ sometimes it becomes a real social interchange.”

3. Dogs for the Aged

“Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home,” says Lynette Hart, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, “Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog.” Walking or just caring for a pet can provide exercise and companionship for older individuals. In fact, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio, asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening — which often helps tip the scales in their favor.

4. Good for the Mind and Soul

Stressed people experience a rise in cortisol and norepinephrine levels. This can negatively affect the immune system and cause plaque buildup in arteries, which leads to heart disease. Fortunately, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine (nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties). Blair Justice, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, tells WebMD, “People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature.”

5. Good for the Heart

Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. For instance, in a high blood pressure study stockbrokers who adopted a cat or dog later had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations compared to those without pets. Researchers also say that male pet owners have less sign of heart disease (lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels) than non-owners.