Dr. Erika Schwartz is a leading national expert in wellness, disease prevention, and bioidentical hormone therapies. Dr. Schwartz has written four best-selling books, testified before Congress, hosted her own PBS special on bioidentical hormones, and is a frequent guest on network TV shows.

Tags: pets | pet | ownership | health | benefits | stress | reduce

Pets Relieve Stress

Friday, 10 Feb 2012 10:47 AM


In 1996, McCall magazine published a “How do you relieve stress?” column highlighting how different people relaxed. As one of those interviewed, I described how watching my three dogs interact was soothing to me.

Not only did my dogs help me relax, but also their unique way of interacting, sharing the spotlight and taking or following the lead, taught me much about how to successfully interact with people in my own life. At the time, I was running special programs for Montefiore Medical Center and private practices in Irvington and Chappaqua, New York. I instinctively knew the dogs’ teachings were of significant help to me even though the health benefits of having pets were not common knowledge or fodder for research back then.

Fifteen years later, science has caught up with what so many of us instinctively knew: Pets help improve our health.

Today, as I get ready to write my fifth book, still see patients in two offices four days a week, write articles, participate in media events, and even train physicians, the one thing that has kept me grounded and given me the proper perspective on my hectic life is always my dogs.

While the wonderful dogs I had in 1996 are no longer here, a new generation of brilliant, loyal, loving, and funny dachshunds keeps me in line and teaches me how to be a better person. My health, which thankfully, is great because I follow my own advice and take supplements and bioidentical hormones, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and get eight hours of sleep, is even better due to the never-ending kisses and wonderful greetings I get at the end of every day from my dog family.

Now research shows that unless you’re someone who really dislikes animals or is too busy to care for pets, you will relieve stress and enjoy numerous other health benefits by having a furry friend.

Pets help you:

Improve mood. It’s virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy eyes meets yours, or when a super-soft cat rubs up against your hand. A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet.

Lower blood pressure. The most commonly used drugs to treat hypertension aren’t as effective at reducing blood pressure as having pets around is. A fun study looked at groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers given dogs or cats and found those with the pets had lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. I bet many of those who didn’t have a pet ran out and got one after learning the results of the study. They certainly would have been well-advised to.

Get more exercise. Dog owners spend more time walking than non-pet owners, especially in urban settings. Owning a dog can be credited with increasing all the health benefits associated with increased physical activity. People who own pets know you cannot be too sedentary with them around.

Connect socially. When we’re out walking, having a dog (or a cat) with us makes us more approachable and provides a reason to stop and talk to other people. This increases the opportunity to stave off social isolation, which is a big stressor for many.

Enjoy unconditional love. Pets are always there for you in ways that people aren’t. They give you love and companionship, are accepting of total silence, keep secrets, and are the best at cuddling. They also are the top antidote to loneliness. Studies have shown that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they were visited by relatives. (Are you surprised?)

Stress less. Research has shown that when people undergo stressful tasks they actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even spouse was. (This may be partially due to the fact that pets don’t judge us; they just love us.)

Having a pet isn’t for everyone. For some, a pet can cause stress. However, for most of us, the benefits of having a pet outweigh any drawbacks. Having a furry best friend can reduce stress in your life and bring you support when times get tough. So, don’t wait for a nursing home visit by a furry friend; get one today!

And if you want my opinion, long-haired dachshunds make the best pets. But don’t take my word for it; ask Jasper, Henry, or Teddy.

For more information, please email me at: Erika@drerika.com.










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Pets improve human health and happiness by helping relieve stress, showing unconditional love, and connecting people.
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