Dog Ownership Could Boost Heart Health, Research Suggests

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Dog lovers know how much warmth and comfort their canine companions add to their lives. But they might not know that a growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help improve heart health.

The research published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings involved 1,769 people aged between 25 to 64-year-old living in the city of Brno in the Czech Republic. The participants had healthy hearts, and provided information including their BMI, diet, physical activity levels, whether they smoked, blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar level. Of the total, around 42 percent owned a pet: 24 percent owned a dog, while 17.9 percent another type of animal.

Compared with owners of other pets, dog owners were more likely to report physical activity and diet at ideal level. The comparison of dog owners with non-dog owners yielded similar results

Dr Andrea Maugeri, a researcher with the International Clinical Research Centre at St Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, said: “In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level.

“The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”

He added that the study findings supported the idea that people could adopt, rescue or purchase a pet as a potential strategy to improve their cardiovascular health as long as pet ownership led them to a more physically active lifestyle.

Dogs' calming effect on humans also appears to help people handle stress. For example, some research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body.

If you own a dog or are thinking about it, the potential benefits for your heart health are a nice plus. However, pets should not be adopted for the primary purpose of reducing heart disease risk. And definitely don't add a dog to your life if you're not ready or able to take care of one, including making sure it gets enough exercise.

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