In addition to being associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, owning a pet may also have beneficial effects on the immune system by increasing our exposure to microorganisms.
Several studies have reported that owning a pet was associated with several positive effects on cardiovascular health, including increased physical activity levels, lower blood pressure, improved lipid profile, and better survival after a coronary event.
An animal with you is good for the heart
A review of all of these studies has also enabled the American Heart Association to conclude that having a pet, in particular a dog, represents a reasonable approach to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Pets also reduce stress, anxiety and social isolation, a set of psychological factors known to significantly increase the risk of heart disease and decrease the quality of life in general.
For people who love animals and who have the time to devote to them, adopting a pet can therefore be a decision likely to have very positive repercussions on health.
Pet at home, less asthma and allergies
Another factor associated with pets, less well known, is that they considerably modify the microbiome of our immediate environment, that is to say the billions of bacteria, viruses and molds present in our homes. Dogs, who are naturally very curious, literally poke their noses (and paws) everywhere and bring home a huge number of microorganisms. Although this may seem disgusting at first glance, several observations indicate that this microbe intake could instead be positive, since children who grow up in a household where dogs live have a lower risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as asthma and allergies. These results are in agreement with a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which showed that children who grow up in an environment rich in microbes, a traditional farm for example, are much less affected by asthma.
So, even if we generally tend to associate the word “microbe” with “disease”, the reality is that the vast majority of these microorganisms are not dangerous, but on the contrary can positively influence our health, by educating our immune system. to make the right choices.
Exposure to germs helps our immune system
An example of this influence is the sharp increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases in recent years. According to certain tracks relating to our relationship to hygiene, the constant improvement of sanitary conditions reduces our exposure to the various microbes in the environment and ensures that the immunity is not in contact with enough microorganisms to learn well. its role and adequately distinguish what is dangerous (pathogens coming from outside) from what is not (the human body as such). In other words, autoimmune diseases would be mainly caused by a bad education of the immune system, consequence of a lack of exposure to the immense variety of microorganisms which are normally present in the environment.
Improved sanitation is a key factor in the extraordinary increase in life expectancy over the past century. It is not a question of going back, but we must however be aware that hygiene is associated with a decrease in microorganisms in our living environments and can disrupt immunity. The arrival of a pet in the house, with the billions of microbes that accompany it, diversifies this microbiome and could thereby attenuate the negative impacts associated with the reduction of microbes.
In short, whether for their beneficial impacts on physical, mental and immune health, pets really are fantastic life companions. No wonder dogs have been part of everyday human life for over 30,000 years!
Levine GN et al. Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Traffic; 127:2353-63.
Stein MM et al. Innate immunity and asthma risk in Amish and Hutterite farm children. N Engl J Med. 2016; 375: 411-21.