Pets aren’t just good for keeping you company; they may also give you a healthier heart, according to a report featured on TIME

Researchers, convened by the American Heart Association (AHA) and led by Dr. Glenn Levine of Baylor College of Medicine, examined studies that related pets to heart health.

Research reveal that having a pet lowers stress levels, which in turn, reduces the effects of chronic stress. Living with physically active animals such as dogs or cats also helps in keeping their guardians up and about. Pets may also act as support for people who have undergone trauma or have fallen into depression.

Of course, having a pet isn’t the magic pill for losing weight and avoiding heart disease. Levine notes, “If someone adopts a pet, but still sits on the couch and smokes and eats whatever they want and doesn’t control their blood pressure, that’s not a prudent strategy to decrease their cardiovascular risk.”

(Photo by sabianmaggy via Flickr Creative Commons)

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