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He's furry and full of pep, but did you know he could be good for your health too? Numerous studies have shown the health benefits of dog ownership. Simply being around a friendly dog can make someone feel more relaxed and happier. Dogs are used in rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes to help patients recover faster and live longer.
What Stress Can Do
Folks can experience chronic stress and not even know it. They can become used to having clenched teeth, indigestion and an ever present sense of anxiety. This constant stress response releases chemicals such as norepinephrine and cortisol into the bloodstream. These chemicals keep the body in a heightened state of arousal, which is basically what stress is. The chemicals can cause plaque to build up in the arteries, and this can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. People who suffer from chronic stress have higher cholesterol levels and weaker immune systems. They are also more likely to have anxiety attacks and suffer from depression.
Dogs Can Change All That
Dogs have been shown to help people who suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The presence of a dog is relaxing and joyous, and this has a calming effect on the body. Petting and playing with a dog also releases serotonin and dopamine in the human brain, and these are feel good chemicals that help with everything from depression to insomnia. People who have dogs tend to have lower anxiety levels. That means their cortisol and norepinephrine levels are lower than those who do not own dogs. This translates to a healthier heart and lower cholesterol levels.
Many folks would agree that it is the overall benefit of dogs that is so enjoyable and powerful. Dogs do not just help us feel better physically, they help us mentally and emotionally as well. These combined benefits are some of the reasons dog ownership has a positive influence on us.
Fido Keeps Us Moving
We tend to become stuck in our ways as we get older. Our activity levels can stabilize or decrease. Lower activity levels mean our metabolism slows down, and this can lead to weight gain.
Weight gain is almost never good but it can be especially difficult on older joints. An old knee or back injury can easily come to the forefront again if we gain weight when we are older. Arthritis can also become an issue. One way to combat all this is by simply increasing activity levels.
This is where dogs have a powerful effect on us. They keep us walking, which lubricates the joints and exercises the heart and lungs. Fifteen minutes twice a day can have a positive influence on our health. It can also lower stress levels and increase production of serotonin.
Keep The Blues Away
Dogs are helpful to people who have lost a spouse due to divorce or illness. Loneliness increases stress hormones and paves the way for depression. One way to prevent the feelings of loss and helplessness is by getting a dog.
Not only do dogs provide friendly companionship, they also increase the likelihood of human interaction. People are more likely to approach someone with a dog and strike up a conversation, and this can lead to a budding friendship. Dogs open the door for human companionship and make it easier for the first words to be spoken.
Dogs Make Us Smile
You might have to remove dog hairs from the couch, but the joy and good tidings a dog will bring into your life will be more than worth it.