Do you have a dog? If so, call him over and give him a good petting — he deserves it. Thanks to a new study, it turns out that dogs can help your health. The study says that just spending a few minutes a day with a dog relieves anxiety in people who are susceptible to heart failure. Dogs help calm the human body and could be beneficial to your overall health in many ways.
There’s actually a medical term for this finding — ‘animal- assisted therapy.’ This has got to be the most enjoyable method of therapy around, as people who undertake it get to participate in planned meetings with canines in order to help calm their body. Results have shown that animal- assisted therapy can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Still, dogs don’t have enough credibility with mainstream medicine as of yet to be considered part of an actual scientific therapy. That may change if more studies come out like the new one presented at this year’s meeting of the American Heart Association — which is quite the credible venue.
The study focused on 76 people who were in the hospital with heart failure. They were approached in one of three ways: left alone; visited by a volunteer; or a 12-minute visit with a dog (and volunteer). The dogs — a dozen different breeds included — lay on the beds so the patients could pat them and play with them. This human/canine interaction dropped anxiety by an average of 24% in patients with heart failure (a condition that causes high levels of stress).
That compares to an average anxiety drop of 10% when a human volunteer visited patients. Researchers found that the levels of “epinephrine” (a stress hormone) dropped an average of 17% in people who visited with a dog. That compares to a drop of two percent with human volunteers and an increase of seven percent when people were left alone.
What’s more? The patients who were visited by a friendly pooch also experienced a significant improvement in their cardiovascular status as well. These results certainly speak for themselves — and suggest that dogs occupy a very special place in the human heart.
These findings can be considered pretty important for patients with heart failure, whose heart has slowly lost its ability to pump blood well, and who could be gasping for air after mild exertion. The outlook is, unfortunately, not good for these patients — half of them will die within five years of diagnosis, a fact which undoubtedly fuels their anxiety and stress levels.
It’s safe to assume that having a dog can improve your psychological and physiological state. For seriously ill people, they should plan specific times to spend with a dog. As the study shows, it can make a real difference in their quality of life.