Thursday, 17 August 2017 17:31

How owning a dog could improve your health

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Nearly everyone will smile when they’re petting a dog. If the dog happens to plant a big kiss right on your hands or face, you will most likely laugh and giggle, even while pushing the dog away. Did you know that dogs can bring more than a smile to your face, though? Research demonstrates that they actually improve your health.

Dogs Strengthen Your Heart

According to the American Heart Association, dogs can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. There are numerous reasons for the lowered risk, including the time spent taking your dog out for their daily walk and the distraction from work or family stress.

Also several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them.  The power of touch also appears to be an important part of this "pet Zen effect." Several studies prove that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog.

There is some evidence that owning a dog is linked with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A large study focusing on this data found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners, and that these differences weren't explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). However, the reason for these differences is still not clear.

Dogs' calming effect on humans also appears to help people handle stress. For example, some research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more rapidly, dampening the effects of stress on the body.

Dogs Lower Stress

Remember how dogs make you laugh and smile as you pet them? Eventually, those lighthearted laughs will lower your stress levels.

A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia discovered that petting a dog causes your body to release those “happy hormones,” including serotonin and oxytocin. At the same time, a dog will also lower the stress hormone cortisol.

In the study, scientists examined the hormone levels of dog owners and non-owners alike. They discovered that people received the most benefit (through increased serotonin levels) when petting their own dogs. Also, simply stroking the dog for 15-30 minutes lowered the participants’ blood pressure by 10 percent!

Dogs Boost Immunity

If you have children, owning a dog can work in your favor, dodging the start of allergies. This study, published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, demonstrated that babies exposed to a pet before the six-month mark have a reduce risk of allergies. They also have a diminished risk for hay fever, eczema, and upper respiratory infections too.

In addition, dogs may help balance out and improve your gut health. Because dogs have many different types of useful bacteria, owning one will expose you to them.

As you take your dog outside during the day, it will also pick up organisms from outdoors. You will definitely benefit from exposure to your dog’s healthy bacteria.

Simply put, having a dog changes your life.

I teach a lot about the importance of eating whole, unprocessed foods, avoiding your toxicity exposure, and exercising to attain or regain your health. Above all of those factors, however, I place a good sense of humor, meditating - and dogs. Any and all will do. As the season turns and fall is just around the corner, laugh a little, and allow some four-legged joy to enter your life.  

Last modified on Thursday, 17 August 2017 17:37
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