Dog Lovers Have Lower Blood Pressure. But Why?by Carissa Andrews - November 18th, 2019
Many people adopt dogs looking for a companion in life. However, getting a four-legged companion comes with more benefits than just cuddles and a cute face. Did you know your furry friend may also help lower your blood pressure?
There are a multitude of studies that have been done over the years linking owning a pet (and most specifically, a pet of the canine variety) to lowered systolic blood pressure. Although not fully conclusive, the studies have found correlations between owning a dog and a significant decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is most likely due to the variety of activities pet owners are required to take on when owning a dog, such as playing and taking them out for a walk. But let’s take a closer look at those studies.
Link Between Dogs and Blood Pressure
A 2013 American Heart Association study found pets can also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, thanks to a decrease in systolic blood pressure. In the study, more than 335,000 people between 40-85 who had experienced heart attack or stroke where carefully monitored. Of those, 5-6% of them were dog owners. What they went on to find in this study was that dog ownership, through the extension of lowered blood pressure, could be directly linked to a 33% reduced risk of death after a heart attack, if living alone and 27% reduced risk of death for stroke survivors living alone. Overall, owning a dog was also associated with a 24% reduced mortality for any reason and a whopping 31% reduced risk of dying by heart attack or stroke.
In a 2016 study of more than 1500 people over the age of 60, owning a dog was directly attributed to a 3.34 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure. To put this into perspective, a 2 mm reduction can mean a 6% reduction in stroke risk, 4% reduction for coronary disease, and 3% reduction in overall mortality risk. Even the CDC has stated a number of health benefits to owning pets – including decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.
Other Health Benefits of Owning A Dog
Outside of blood pressure, pets are also known to help with depression. By being a companion, pets motivate their owners to continue throughout their day by being more active and not sit around lethargically. It is also possible to train your pet to want to eat or play at a certain time of the day. This can put you both in a routine, which not only gets them what they need—but it also helps you get or stay motivated to move about, alleviating some of the symptoms of depression. It can also give those who live alone something to “live for” when they have no one at home, which can sometimes be a cause for depression if they have always had others to care for.
As many people age, they find their social life or social circle dwindling. This can lead to social isolation, which can contribute to lower standards of health. One study found that those who lived with a dog after a heart attack or stroke were 27% less likely to die. Those with a dog and someone in the family to come home to (spouse, children, etc.) had an additional 12% risk reduction. There were some factors that were not considered in this study, however, such as traumatic events in the person’s life that occurred after the heart attack or stroke.
Another benefit of owning a dog is the pure emotional connection between you and another living creature that loves and trusts you wholeheartedly. These are priceless benefits that could never be fully measured, but are always appreciated, nonetheless.
Considering Adopting a Dog?
If you are simply looking for a companion and find the idea of lower blood pressure and a decrease in the risk of heart disease beneficial, then you might be considering getting a dog or other pet. If you require some additional support, you might even consider an emotional support animal (ESA) or a service dog who has been specifically trained for your needs.
You are not required to go to a physician to be prescribed an emotional support animal. However, you do need one if you want one that is trained as a service dog. With this, you can train your emotional support dog to become a service dog yourself. If you are disabled and are needing the assistance of an animal, these may be optional routes you can take.
All of this said, keep in mind that owning a pet is still a big responsibility. If you feel like you wouldn’t be able to keep up with their needs, adopting an animal (even with their added health benefits) isn’t a good idea for you—or for them. If you plan on adopting a new animal, be sure you are doing it for the right reasons and make sure you have the ability to keep up with their needs.
Healthy Activities for You and Your Dog
If you went ahead and adopted a dog, you might be wondering what types of activities you can do with them to increase the health benefit for you both. Especially if it’s been a while since you had a pet—or maybe you never had one at all. Here are a few healthy activities you can do together to make the most of your companionship.
• Go for walks: Either walk around the block or push yourself further to increase your health and wellness. Dogs usually need to walk frequently—and the bigger the dog, often the longer the walks. Perhaps consider joining some local pet walk marathons, if your health is up to it. If joining an organized walk, always make sure your breed of dog is allowed in the mix before enrolling. If you are more tech savvy, you can also join virtual walk races via a smartphone or tablet.
• Go to the park: Head to the park (or dog park) and bring a picnic of healthy snacks for yourself and your dog to enjoy together. Afterward, you can play with toys or other dogs at the park. Use this experience to meet new friends to maintain mental wellbeing.
• Visit the beach: If your body is weaker because of age or other disabilities, low impact activities such as water aerobics can be beneficial. Head to the beach with your dog for some fun water play. While you are stretching your own body, your dog can enjoy a dip himself and swim in the pool or in the water.
• Play time: Just going out in the backyard with a favorite toy for a few minutes can be helpful, if you don’t have time for the other activities. You are still active and enjoying some bonding time with one another.
While more studies do need to be performed with larger groups and with more lifestyles, for now we can say there has been a correlation between owning a dog and a longer, healthier life. Before you head out to get a dog or other service animal, always research your breed and learn about them. Understand how adding them into your daily routine will change your dynamic before you move forward. Remember, all of the blood pressure lowering benefits in the world won’t help you if you’re allergic—so be sure to pick a breed of animal you’re able to not only take care of—but tolerate, as well. When you find the right one for you, a world of health benefits will open up—as well as a lifelong companionship. If you find that owning a pet isn’t for you, despite having higher blood pressure, your doctor will likely prescribe medications to lower your risk. Canadian Pharmacy King carries a wide variety of blood pressure medications, as well as many pet health medications. Making sure you and your pet are healthy is our top priority.
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