A Dog Might Be the Heart’s Best Friend
Pets provide a form of social support, offering some of the same health benefits as human interaction. Now, it seems that your furry companion also may help your heart heal.
What the Studies Say
In a study of more than three million Swedish adults, people who lived alone and owned a dog were less likely to develop heart disease. In addition, those who owned a dog, regardless of whether they lived alone, were less likely to die from heart-related causes (or from other causes). Other research has found that owning a pet is linked to lower blood pressure and longer survival after a heart attack.
The Calming Effect of a Pet
So, how might pets protect your heart? Researchers think that the presence of a pet helps tame harmful changes in blood pressure and heart rate caused by stress. Dogs also help alleviate other stress factors, such as loneliness, social isolation, and depression. And the benefits don’t stop at social support – dog owners also tend to be more physically active and to spend more time outdoors.
So, spend some quality time with a pet. Your heart may thank you for it. Not an animal lover? There are other ways to ease stress after a heart attack. Here are a few:
- Be social. If you’re feeling down, interacting with other people can be a real mood-booster.
- Make time for a new hobby or a favorite pastime.
- Be more active. Ask your doctor what kinds of physical activities are best for you.
Meet IU Health West Hospital’s Newest (and Furriest) Team Member
Avery, a two-year-old golden retriever, belongs to Lesley Lautenschlager, occupational therapist at IU Health West Hospital. Lautenschlager first started training Avery when the dog was eight weeks old. Avery continues to train in the hospital setting as IU Health West’s facility dog.
“I love golden retrievers,” Lautenschlager says. “Our last golden retriever, Chama, served as a certified therapy dog and facility dog at IU Health West Hospital for many years. She was loved by countless patients and team members before we lost her to cancer. My family missed having a dog, and there were several requests to have another facility dog at the hospital, so we decided to try again.”
Avery is a distant relative of Chama, and Lautenschlager says Avery has a spunkier personality, making her a great fit as a facility dog.
Avery typically visits patients at IU Health West Hospital on Thursdays, and when she’s not serving as the hospital’s facility dog, Avery enjoys hiking and chasing squirrels.