Who Needs a Doctor when You Have a DOGter?
A dog may not be quite as good as an apple a day, but it’s certainly close. After poking around, it turns out that owning—or even just interacting with—a dog can have some major positive impacts on a person’s health. And we’re not just talking about reducing your stress here (although dogs do a great job of that). We’re talking about some pretty big physiological and psychological benefits.
Here are just a few.
First, did you know dogs can actually help reduce your blood pressure? They can, and in some cases, they can have more of an impact than actual blood pressure medication.
A researcher named Dr. Karen Allen, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Buffalo, conducted an experiment to measure how interacting with a dog could affect the blood pressure in people who were (1) regularly exposed to stressful situations and (2) already taking blood pressure medication.
So, she found 48 people who had one of the most stressful jobs out there: stockbrokers. All of those 48 were taking a drug called Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor used to treat high blood pressure. Shen then selected 24 at random and gave them a dog.
Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly if you’re a dog owner), the group that interacted with the dogs had significantly lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.
The even crazier part, though, is that the dogs performed better than the drugs, keeping their owners blood pressure lower during stressful situations than the medication.
When Dr. Allen told the control group (non-dog owners) about the experiment, almost all of them went out and got dogs!
But blood pressure’s not the only thing dog’s help keep at health levels. They also help lower cholesterol.
This is by far one of my favorite facts about dog-owners: they tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels even though they tend to be heavier drinkers and get fast food more often.
I’m not joshing you! It was carried out by Dr. Erika Friedman and published in The Waltham Book of Human-Animal Interactions: Benefits and Responsibilities. Dr. Friedman found that in addition to having lower cholesterol, they also have lower general risk for cardiac disease and higher post-heart-attack survival rates.
And no one’s really sure why. Some researchers think it’s because dog owners tend to be more relaxed and more social. Others think it’s because dog owners tend to be more active, since dogs need walks. But the results are pretty clear: dogs do help you maintain a healthy heart.
Now, I want to be clear here (and so does Dr. Friedman, since she says this in the conclusion of her paper): dogs don’t cure hypertension, and they’re no excuse to up your beer intake. It’s just cool that dogs can physically help your heart health.
Those are just two ways dogs help keep you healthy.
But there are so many more. From lending focus to children with ADHD to detecting cancer to boosting your dating life—your companion is probably doing more for you than just being a friend. Here are 22 ways your pooch contributes to your overall well-being.
22 Ways Dogs Make You Healthier