When it comes to preventing the spread of disease, you probably already know the basics – wash your hands before eating and after using the restroom; cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze; and avoid close contact with people who are sick. These simple disease prevention measures have probably become second nature to you, so much so that you may even do them without thinking. But there another simple thing you can do to prevent disease which may come as a surprise to you – having a pet.
You may find it surprising to hear that something as simple as owning and caring for a pet can help to prevent you from developing serious health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, and even mental illness. In recent years, several studies have been conducted regarding the correlation between pet ownership and improved health. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) notes a correlation between pet ownership and improved physical fitness and in maintaining other healthy behaviors.
5 Ways Having Pets Can Improve Your Health
According to one study, dog owners who walk their dogs on a regular basis are much more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity than people who do not own or walk dogs. This kind of correlation is easy to understand, but there are a few more ways that having a pet can improve your health.
1. Petting a dog or cat can reduce stress. Spending time with your dog or cat can help your body to relax which will help reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Not only will you feel more relaxed, but the stress-relieving benefits of pets can also lower your blood pressure.
2. Pet owners are happier and less lonely. If you live alone, having a pet can help you to feel less lonely. For many people, having someone or something to care for is extremely beneficial for mental health and wellness. Plus, your pet will love you unconditionally.
3. Pet ownership can help lower cholesterol. Taking your dog on a daily walk will not just benefit his health – it can also improve yours. Regular physical activity will help to lower your bad cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health overall.
4. Pets can reduce allergies. It may seem somewhat counterintuitive, but having pets in the home can actually reduce your child’s risk for developing allergies. The key is early exposure – if your child is overprotected from dander and other allergens, he is more likely to develop an allergy.
5. Spending time with pets may reduce chronic pain. If you have a chronic illness, especially chronic pain, you are probably open to anything and everything that might provide relief. Something as simple as petting your dog or cat can help to increase endorphin production which can help relieve pain.
In addition to providing many health-related benefits, having a pet can also provide certain social benefits. For example, having a dog means that you will have to leave the house to take him for a walk. Going on a walk or taking your pup to the dog park is a great opportunity to meet fellow pet lovers and to form new social relationships. Several studies have shown that pet owners are more likely to become active members of their community. If you are diagnosed with an acute or chronic illness, your first impulse probably won’t be to head to your local shelter and to adopt a dog. Having a pet is by no means a replacement for medical treatment administered by a qualified health professional, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that owning and caring for a pet can help to reduce your risk for developing certain diseases and that it may also help you to maintain a healthier and happier state of mind.