Take a paws from stress to mark Best Friend Fridays

FatCamera/E+, Getty Images
(FatCamera/E+, Getty Images)

While everyone's social lives took a pandemic-related hit this past year, some friends were always nearby.

Now, as the dog days of summer are upon us (sorry, kitties), it's time to honor those fast friends, whether they be feline, canine, equine, avian, reptilian, rodentian or even mustelid (yes, ferrets, we're talking about you, too).

Through August, the American Heart Association invites you to celebrate Best Friend Fridays and our pet companions that are always here for us — helping us manage stress and boosting our physical and mental health.

Studies have reported that animals not only enrich our lives but may help extend them. Having pets — especially the most popular ones in the U.S., dogs — has been linked to a reduction of cardiovascular disease risk factors, an American Heart Association Scientific Statement suggested. The statement also suggested that for those with existing cardiovascular disease, pet ownership may help them living longer.

But what about bunnies? One study found that petting a rabbit — or a turtle! —could reduce anxiety.

And let's not forget the fish. Gazing at a well-stocked aquarium can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, research suggests.

So whomever you hang with, join us each Friday in our online pet party: Post a photo or video of your special animal friends with the hashtag #BestFriendFridays. You can learn more at www.heart.org/pets.