In a small but telling piece of research, researchers in the United Kingdom equipped dogs with special collars that tracked their heart rates for 7 days and found the following:
When a dog’s human companion said, “I love you,” their pet’s heart rate shot up by 46 percent, from an average of 67 beats per minute to 98. The dogs were clearly excited by what they correctly perceived as expressions of affection.
When someone cuddled with their dog, the pet’s heart rate dropped by an average of 23 percent, going down to 52 beats per minute. The cuddling definitely relaxed the canine companions.
What held true for the dogs also held true for the people. When they first saw their pets after having been separated for a long time, their hearts literally went pitter patter, increasing in beats by an average of 10 percent per minute.
You probably already knew all this intuitively. But it’s nice to have it confirmed.
Some other interesting findings about dogs and hearts, most from the American Heart Association:
- People with dogs enjoy lower blood pressure than others, both during petting sessions and between them, thus lowering the risk for heart disease.
- People with dogs are 31 percent less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than those without canine companions.
- People with prior heart events, including heart attacks, have a 65 percent reduced risk of death if they have a dog living at home with them.
- People who regularly walk their dogs have a third of the risk for diabetes as those without a dog. Diabetes significantly increases heart disease risk.
- Dog parents are much more likely to reach their fitness goals than non-dog parents. The fitter you are, the stronger and healthier your heart.
- Having a pet relieves stress and boosts overall happiness and well-being. That, in turn, relieves stress on the heart.
- Having a dog is a powerful predictor of behavior changes that can lead to weight loss. Being in the heathy weight range for your height protects cardiovascular health.
When we see, touch, hear, or talk to our dogs, our stress hormones decrease.
Dogs ease people out of social isolation. How does that protect the heart? A Swedish study of more than 17,000 people found that those with the fewest social contacts were 50 percent more likely than others to die of heart disease. Moreover, the research found, if someone already has a heart problem, having friends increases the chances of survival.
Don’t thank us for this information. Thank your dog. And Happy Valentine’s Day.