4 Amazing Reasons to Pet (or Own) a Pet

A woman walking three dogs on a rainy day
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In a bad mood? Here are five reasons petting a pet is good for your brain health.

1. They flood your brain with a feel-good hormone.

Stroking a four-legged friend may increase a brain hormone known to lower stress hormone levels, bringing about feelings of calm, trust and relaxation, a review of 69 studies published in Frontiers in Psychology found.

2. They help you stay social.

Dogs are social icebreakers that serve as a conversation trigger between strangers, notes a report by AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health, an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts. Because of that, dog walkers are more likely to chat with other people than are walkers without pets.

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Don’t own a pooch? You can still reap the social benefits by offering to walk a neighbor’s pet or providing dog-walking services via an app like Wag! or a site such as Care.com.

3. They encourage healthy habits.

One benefit of pet ownership is increased physical activity. A three-year study published in 2009 found that dog walkers were less likely to be obese than those who don’t own pets or walk their dogs. Another health benefit: fewer doctor visits, research shows.

4. They’re good for your heart — and mind.

Pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (which can minimize the risk of having a heart attack), studies from the National Institutes of Health suggest. Human-animal interaction may also reduce stress-related measurements such as cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure, as well as self-reported fear and anxiety.

Scientists have also found that dog owners over age 65 performed significantly better than nonowners of pets on cognitive tasks, perhaps because having a dog keeps them physically and mentally active.

Learn more about how owning a pet may affect your mood, mind and heart

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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