Can Your Dog Make You Healthier?

Staff Writer
Owning a pet—and exercising with it—could lower your risk of heart disease

If you own a dog or cat, you can probably attest that pets make great companions. However, what you may not know is that your animal could have a positive effect on your heart health.

The American Heart Association recently assembled a panel of heart disease experts for a literature review. After going over the available studies, the experts–chaired by Dr. Glenn Levine, a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine–drew some interesting conclusions about pets and heart health.

A statement from the organization outlines the findings:

Research shows that:

  • Pet ownership is probably associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients. But the studies aren’t definitive and do not necessarily prove that owning a pet directly causes a reduction in heart disease risk. “It may be simply that healthier people are the ones that have pets, not that having a pet actually leads to or causes reduction in cardiovascular risk,” Levine said.
  • Dog ownership in particular may help reduce cardiovascular risk. People with dogs may engage in more physical activity because they walk them. In a study of more than 5,200 adults, dog owners engaged in more walking and physical activity than non-dog owners, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity. 
  • Owning pets may be associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a lower incidence of obesity.
  • Pets can have a positive effect on the body’s reactions to stress.

To read the full report in the AHA's journal Circulation, click here.

H/T Time.