Tuesday Top Five: Health Benefits of Living with a Dog

shutterstock_221933230Everybody knows that dogs welcome you home exuberantly, no matter how long you’ve been gone. But did you know that the Welcome Home also comes with some real health benefits, both physically and mentally? Here are five ways science has proven that dogs can improve your health.

1. Dogs relieve stress. When you’re under stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Studies show that petting a dog for just five minutes releases the level of cortisol in your bloodstream. Petting also causes your brain to release endorphins, the brain chemical that makes you feel good.

2. Dogs reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Not only does interacting with a dog lower your blood pressure and heart rate, science shows that people who live with dogs have less of a chance of dying from heart disease. Researchers attribute this to the fact that people who live with dogs tend to be more physically active because they play with their dogs and walk them. The same boost is not seen in families who have cats rather than dogs.

3. Dogs lower depression. Did you ever wonder why dogs make such good therapy animals? Science says there are several reasons for the effect dogs seem to have on depression including unconditional love, distraction from your problems caused by having to take care of your dog, and the positive focus that comes from caring for a living being.

4. Dogs may delay the onset of dementia. People who live with dogs are likely to be more social than those who don’t. Having a dog in the family means trips to dog parks, doggie day care centers, and even the vet. And dogs are natural conversation-starters. How many total strangers have you “bonded” with while talking about your dog? Science shows that social activity improves cognitive functioning and may stave off dementia.

5. Dogs improve your physical activity level. In one study, people who lived with dogs walked nearly twice as much as people who didn’t have canine companionship at home. We all know the value of avoiding a sedentary life – it lowers bad cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and can allow diabetics to have better control over their blood sugar levels.

And you thought having a dog around was just for fun!

Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!

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