They really are man’s best friend! Study says owning a dog can boost heart health

Owning a dog improves every aspect of your life, including reducing risk to your cardiovascular health. Source: Getty.

They’ve long been known as man’s best friend because of their unconditional love and boundless energy, but dog owners everywhere can once again be thankful for their furry friends as a recent study has proved that having a dog in your life not only benefits your soul, but can also improve your heart health. The research uncovered a link between dog ownership and good heart health, after examining a mixed group of dog owners and those without pets, all with no previous history of heart disease.

The study, conducted by the Mayo clinic, looked at a group of 1,769 subjects who were scored based on ideal health behaviours and factors outlined by the American Heart Association including body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol. Researcher with the International Clinical Research Centre Dr Andrea Maugeri said those who owned dogs specifically were more likely to live healthier lives.

“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” she said. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”

It was found that owning a dog not only prompted people to move around and play with their animals more but it also encouraged them to leave their house more often. This factor created a strong link to a lack of social isolation in a dog owner’s life as well as an improvement in overall mental health.

Depression, social isolation, inactive lifestyle, unhealthy diet, being overweight and high cholesterol are all the top risk factors for a heart attack or stroke which only increase with age. However, while owning a dog has been linked to decreasing each of these risks, the study also saw that while pet owners lived a healthier life, they were more likely to smoke tobacco which is by far one of the worst habits linked to heart disease.

For those looking to improve their own wellbeing, the results of the study supported the fact that adopting, rescuing or buying a pet is a definitely a potential way to maintain heart health. However, it also noted that this is directly linked to a more physically active lifestyle, which means it’s generally more beneficial to own an energetic animal such as a dog rather than something less willing to socialise and play outside.

To establish the study, researchers gathered information on the baseline health and socio-economic information on more than 2,000 subjects in Brno in the Czech Republic from the beginning of 2013 through to the end of 2014. Follow up checks are expected to continue every five years until 2030, with these current results coming from this year’s evaluation which is only the second ever for the overall study.

The benefits of an active lifestyle are no secret for those looking to improve their overall health, however a recent report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested over-60s up the ante when it comes to their weekly workouts. The organisation noted that it’s key to partake in physical activity that not only improves fitness and muscle strength but also enhances balance and prevents falls.

WHO says older adults should be completing 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity which includes uphill and brisk walking. It also suggests around 75 minutes per week should be spent on vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity such as jogging, martial arts or cycling.

Achieving the right amount of exercise can get monotonous, which is where the help of a workout companion can come in handy. Walking dogs, or other active pets, not only improves your own health but it’s also incredibly beneficial for the animal.

Most dogs should be walked around once a day however, some more active breeds such as border collies or Russell terriers might need even more than this depending on their energy levels. Actively taking dogs outside helps fight antisocial behaviours when interacting with other animals, combats boredom and most importantly – improves the pet’s own cardiovascular health.

However, owning a dog is an incredible responsibility, so if you’re on the search for a pet to help improve your life, make sure you carefully select the right breed to suit your lifestyle and even speak to your doctor first before increasing the level of physical activity in your life.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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