Migraines can affect your quality of life and your long-term health. Could having a pet help improve both? There are some surprising benefits to sharing your life with a fur baby when you have migraines.
Depression and anxiety are common for people with migraines. The same brain chemicals may be involved in all three conditions. Studies have shown that pets can reduce depression, anxiety, and stress. Hanging out with a pet lowers your body's levels of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone.
Regular exercise is thought to boost brain chemicals called endorphins and betacannabinoids, which may mean fewer migraines. Dogs motivate you to exercise, since they need frequent walks. When you move with your pooch, you may prevent migraines, too.
If you often have migraines, you're at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Your stroke risk is even greater if you have migraines with aura. One way to improve your heart health? Get a cat. Petting a cat reduces stress, and cat owners have a lower risk of strokes and heart conditions. (In fairness to dog lovers, petting a dog has similar effects.)
Migraines often disturb your sleep. If you get them often, you're probably a poor sleeper. To sleep better, park your pet nearby. Research shows that people whose dogs snoozed in the same room slept restfully through the night -- but not if the pets actually slept on the bed with them.
Loneliness can make it harder to self-manage your chronic migraines, research has found. So it makes sense that easing loneliness might help you cope with migraines better. Pets are loyal companions. Your pet is always eager to hang out on the couch with you or "listen" when you need to talk.
Migraines can disrupt your social life. You may find it hard to make plans with friends or take part in social activities because of unexpected headaches. A dog can help you stay social. One survey found that almost half of dog owners made new friends while walking their pooches or going to dog training classes.
Storms and high temperatures can trigger migraines. But staying indoors helps. When you're feeling cooped up in your home on hot or rainy days, an indoor pet can keep you company. Experts say keeping cats inside is safer and healthier for them. When the weather's extreme, curl up on the couch with Kitty.
Migraines can dampen your desire for sex. But having satisfying sex may ease migraine symptoms. If you're looking for a partner, a pet could help you attract one. In one study, more than one-third of online daters sought mates whose profiles included pet photos. Pet owners were seen as more attractive in another study.
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- National Alliance on Mental Illness: "How Dogs Can Help With Depression."
- Animal Health Foundation: "8 Health Benefits of Having a Pet."
- The Journal of Headache and Pain: "The association between migraine and exercise."
- Current Cardiology Reports: "Migraine and the risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease."
- Danbury Animal Welfare Society: "The Benefits of Having a Cat in Your Home."
- Medicine (Baltimore): "Associations Between Sleep Quality and Migraine Frequency."
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Sleep Environment."
- Journal of Primary Care & Community Health: "Loneliness and Migraine Self-Management: A Cross-Sectional Self-Assessment."
- Disability and Rehabilitation: "Migraine -- More Than a Headache: Women's Experiences of Living With Migraine."
- Good News Network: "Having Dogs Is Great for Your Social Life: Almost Half of All Owners Made Friends While on 'Walkies.'"
- Progressive Animal Welfare Society: "Keeping Your Cat Happy Indoors."
- American Kennel Club: "Swiping Right: How Your Dog Can Help You Find Your Next Date."
- Journal of Evolutionary Psychology: "Dog ownership increases attractiveness and attenuates perceptions of short-term mating strategy in cad-like men."
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "The Friend Who Keeps You Young."
- Association of Migraine Disorders: "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex and Migraines (But Were Afraid to Ask)."