Scientists from St. Anne’s University Hospital found that owning a pet may help maintain a healthy heart, especially if that pet is a dog.
The research is published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes and was conducted by Andrea Maugeri et al.
In the study, the team examined the association of pet ownership—specifically dog ownership—with heart disease risk factors and heart health.
They looked at 1,769 people with no history of heart disease and scored them based on Life’s Simple 7 ideal health behaviors and factors, as outlined by the American Heart Association:
Body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol.
The team found that in general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, a better diet and blood sugar at an ideal level.
The greatest benefits of having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.
The study demonstrates an association between dog ownership and heart health, which is in line with the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on the benefits of owning a dog in terms of physical activity, engagement, and reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.
The study findings support the idea that people could adopt, rescue or purchase a pet as a potential strategy to improve their heart health as long as pet ownership led them to a more physically active lifestyle.
The team says that having a dog may prompt owners to go out, move around and play with their dog regularly.
Owning a dog also has been linked to better mental health in other studies and less perception of social isolation—both risk factors for heart attacks.
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