In 1964, a child psychologist named Boris Levinson coined the term “pet therapy” after he realized that his dog, Jingles, was instrumental in getting his patients to feel more comfortable in speaking to him. The children would interact with Jingles directly, allowing the doctor to make a connection. But Dr. Levinson was not the first to use dogs to help people recover from illnesses. That distinction may belong to Florence Nightingale, the renowned nurse, who used pets with wounded soldiers in the early 19th century to help speed the healing process.
Today, it has been shown that heart attack and stroke patients recover faster and live longer when they have pets at home. Even merely petting your companion has been shown to help lower your blood pressure.
Dogs in particular often have a calming effect. Some research even suggests that people with dogs are less likely to experience an increased heart rate or blood pressure elevations in times of stress, and that both are more likely to return to normal levels more quickly than those without pets. This reduces the overall levels of stress on the body which in turn helps the heart remain healthy and helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
The American Heart Association’s Healthy Bond for Life™ has brought back Best Friend Fridays dedicated to celebrating our pet companions who are always there for us — helping us handle stress and boosting our physical and mental health. After all, having a pet may help you live a longer, healthier life!
Stay safe & be well,