PuppyLove2On Valentine’s Day, our hearts are often on our mind. And why shouldn’t they be? With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of illness and death in the United States, anything that we can do to improve our health should be considered.

Recently, the American Heart Association came out with the statement that they feel that owning a pet is likely associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Here’s what to know about pets and your heart health…

Pet Owners Are More Likely to Exercise

Those who own pets have more reason to get up and do something. They take more walks and are, in general, more active. Physical activity greatly decreases the risk of heart disease.

People who own pets are 54% more likely to get recommended levels of exercise.

Dogs don’t care if you had a long day at work, it is freezing out, or if you have a headache. Their enthusiasm for walks encourages people to get outdoors when they otherwise might not.

Pets are the best workout partners. They are always up for some activity, they never judge, and they push you to keep going.

Pet Owners Are Less Impacted by Stress

Most pet owners will tell you what a great and devoted friend their furry partner makes. Pet ownership offers a great support system that has been recognized for a long time. But owning pets can actually lower your body’s reaction to stress.

Stress results in the release of adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone. This hormone results in increased heart rate and blood pressure. When a person is chronically stressed, it can be difficult to shut off this response.

Pet owners have been shown to have a less intense physiological response to stress, having lower heart rates, blood pressures, and adrenaline levels than their non-pet owning counterparts.

Those who own pets have also been shown to have slightly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and are more likely to survive heart attacks.

In one study, people in high-stress jobs with high blood pressure were put on medication and then half were told to adopt a pet. Within 6 months those with pets had significantly healthier reactions to stress than those on the medication alone.

While pets are not the only answer to the heart disease epidemic this country faces, they are a great part of the solution. Pet owners have long known that their furry friends improve their quality of life, and now there is evidence to support that.

Be sure to wish your pets a happy Valentine’s Day this year, and thank them for helping to keep you healthier.