If you’re anything like me, you don’t really need another reason to love having a fluffy companion around. Their adorable antics and unconditional love alone make owning a pet worthwhile.
But it turns out there are a number of health benefits that come with adopting a Fluffy or Fido, too. Starting with living longer.
Swedish researchers tracked an astounding 3.4 million folks for 12 years to study the relationship between dog ownership and heart health.
According to the new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, people who kept pooches as pets had a significantly lower risk of death from not only heart disease, but from ANY cause.
Dog owners had a 33% lower risk of dying
And for folks who live alone the protective effect of having a fluffy family member was even more dramatic. Research has found people who live alone are at a higher risk for health problems, including heart disease. But the new study found that owning a dog could cause that risk to plummet.
Singles living with a pooch had a 33 percent drop in their risk of dying from any cause during the study. And their risk of developing heart disease was down a healthy 11 percent compared to people who also lived alone, but didn’t share their home with a dog.
The scientists say they aren’t exactly sure why there’s an association between owning a dog and living longer, and healthier. But I sure can guess.
First, there’s that unconditional love I mentioned earlier. Owning a pet means never having to feel lonely, and always having a good listener around. After a hard day, there’s nothing quite as comforting as having your pet curl up in your lap.
And then of course there’s the fact that dogs make being a complete couch potato impossible. They need to be walked, which means WE walk regularly too. And they often force us to socialize more, from the people we meet at the dog park to folks sharing the waiting room with us in the vet’s office.
Pets provide real world health benefits
Science has confirmed pets are good for us before, of course. This isn’t the first time.
Scientists from the University of Alberta found that when it comes to pet ownership the earlier the better. According to their research, exposing kids to pets early could help them avoid both allergies and obesity later in life.
But researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan argue that we should begin exposing babies to pets even earlier. Before their even born, in fact.
Their study found that babies born to moms who had a pet around while they were pregnant had 33 percent lower levels of the antibodies associated with asthma and allergies.
And those same pets can continue to keep us healthy as adults, say scientists from State University in New York. According to their study, having a pet waiting for us when we get home is a terrific stress reliever.
In fact, pet owners have measurably better blood pressure and lower resting heart rates than folks who didn’t have a furry, fluffy or feathered friend sharing their lives.
And the benefits go on and on…
- Pet people tend to have lower healthcare and medication
- Pet owners dealing with stress see their docs less often
- Living in a home with pets lowers your risk for depression
And that last point may be the most important one of all. Because loneliness can become a real problem as we get older.
You’ve heard of dying of a broken heart before, I’m sure. Well it’s not just a phrase. In fact, research shows being socially isolated and feeling lonely can literally shorten your life. But owning a pet can help head off that tragedy.
Adopt a pet and live longer
If you’re already sharing your home with a pet, you might want to give him an extra treat tonight to thank him for making you healthier and helping you live longer. And if you haven’t opened up your heart and home to a furbaby yet, I encourage you to consider it.
If you’re unsure about bringing an animal into your home, consider fostering a pet while his rescuers search for a permanent home for him. That way you can get a feeling for how life will be with a fluffy companion at your side, without making a long term commitment.
If you don’t feel quite ready for a dog, a cat might be more your speed. They’re a bit more independent than a pooch, but still provide plenty of love and companionship.
Don’t overlook senior dogs and cats. They make terrific pets because they come already trained and are often far more laid back than youngsters.
And if you’re a senior yourself, when you visit your local shelter be sure to ask about any special programs they have for older adopters. Many shelters have programs in place, such as Pets for the Elderly, to help seniors with adoption fees and to provide support after they adopt.
Love a longer, healthier, happier life. Adopt a pet today.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
Follow Alice and HealthierTalk on Twitter and Facebook.