Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Pets often become members of the family, and it’s fun having a furry friend around to keep you company, but did you know owning a pet also has health benefits? Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners!

Here is a list of 7 ways owning a pet can improve your health!  

  • They can help decrease blood pressure – High blood pressure increases risk of heart disease and stroke. The presence of your pet can release hormones that allow you to relax, they also reduce the level of hormones that are released that cause stress

 

  • They can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels-With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke. Similarly, high triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (arteriosclerosis) — which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

 

  • They Can Increase Mood and Reduce Anxiety, Feelings of  Loneliness and Depression The company of pets can help improve your mood. This can help combat anxiety and depression. Having a furry companion around can also help decrease feelings of loneliness. 

 

  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities and socialization– Often pets, especially dogs, require quite a bit of exercise. This helps to encourage walking or running on a regular basis, and can also help increase socialization (especially at the park!).

 

  • Increased oxytocin levels- Oxytocin is sometimes known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone,” because it is released when people snuggle up or bond socially. Studies have proven that this hormone is released when petting an animal, or when looking into their eyes. 

 

  • Reduced Pain and Anxiety- Recent studies done by Loyola University have shown that those who use pet therapy after surgery may need significantly less pain medication than those who don’t. 

 

  • Reduces risk for stroke–  A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota Stroke Institute found that if you have a cat, you’re 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack. 

Sources:iii.org, mayoclinic, livescience, center4research.org