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How can owning a pet help my heart?

UCLA Health People Animal Connection (PAC) Program
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Owning a pet can benefit the health of one’s heart in many ways. A research study conducted at UCLA in 2001 examined how a group of patients in the cardiac intensive care unit responded to the presence of a dog. The results showed that the hormone epinephrine, which is responsible for increasing stress levels in humans, was lowered significantly in patients who interacted with the dogs. Additionally, many patients also had a decrease in both heart and lung pressure after interacting with dogs.
Other studies have shown that people who own a pet are less likely to die of a heart attack than those who do not own a pet. Owning a pet leads to improved fitness, which is good for your heart. For example, research has shown that owners who take their dog out for a regular walk will walk an average of 19 additional minutes compared with people who do not have a dog.
Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
Our animal friends often warm our hearts, but according to studies, they also protect them. A study reported in the Medical Journal of Australia found that pet owners generally have lower blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels than people who do not own pets. Having a cat companion could cut your heart attack risk by nearly one-third! According to a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, which followed more than 4000 cat owners over a period of 10 years, being a feline owner can significantly decrease the chance of dying from heart disease. Pet owners have also been found to recover more speedily after surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.