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The heartfelt benefits of pet ownership
Dogs and other pets can foster positive feelings and habits that may improve cardiovascular health.
Pet owners often describe their furry friends as much-loved members of the family. In addition, according to a survey released by the American Heart Association earlier this year, 95% of pet parents report that they rely on their pets for stress relief. Companion animals also provide other mental and physical benefits that may be good for your heart (see "The proof about cats and dogs").
"Pets provide us with a sense of belonging, connection, and contentment for which we all long," explains Dr. Beth Frates, director of lifestyle medicine and wellness in the Department of Surgery at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. The excitement dogs often display when you arrive home makes you feel special and loved. Hearing a cat's gentle purring can be very soothing. Sitting quietly and stroking your pet's soft coat can trigger the release of oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, she adds.
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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Get Healthy, Get a Dog: The health benefits of canine companionship
Dog owners know that their furry friends offer unparalleled companionship. A growing body of research shows they also do much more. Owning a dog can prompt you to be more physically active—have leash, will walk.This Special Health Report, Get Healthy, Get a Dog: The health benefits of canine companionship, shows how having a dog can also reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, help calm jagged nerves, and improve the lives of older individuals. Just petting a dog can lower the petter's blood pressure and heart rate (while having a positive effect on the dog as well).
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