If not for your dog, you might be sitting quite happily, munching on chocolate and watching Netflix. But you find it hard to say no to the big brown eyes of that adorable fluff ball. So you set off to the nearest dog park. Along the way, people smile at Fluffy and strike up conversations, especially those who have dogs. You bend down to pet someone else’s furry companion and get chatting. And in no time at all, you have not only ensured an increase in daily exercise, but you have made new friends.
But having a dog is not just about having a better social life and more interaction. Owning a dog is also good for your heart. And with CVD (cardiovascular disease) being the leading cause of death in the United States, anything that promotes heart health needs to be given more attention.
So how exactly does being a dog owner improve your heart health?
Your pooch needs a daily walk and is likely to need more than a gentle stroll. As you walk your dog (or in some cases, are walked by your dog as it cavorts around or chases a cat), you are getting a decent amount of moderate exercise and are much more likely to achieve the 2.5 hour goal of weekly moderate exercise. A side benefit of taking your dog for a walk is that you may also lose weight. People who suffer from obesity are at a much higher risk of CVD than those who maintain a healthy weight.
According to a 2017 study published by Scientific Reports, “single dog owners had an 11% lower risk of having a heart attack and a 33% lower risk of dying during the study compared with single people who didn’t own dogs.” According to the American Heart Association, dog owners are 31% less likely to have a heart attack and more likely to survive one. Dog owners who have had prior heart-related health events (an incident that may have caused damage to the heart) had a 65% reduced risk of death. Dog owners have lower levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides.
When you have a dog, your dog relies on you daily. You have responsibility for a living, breathing animal, so you are more likely to be inspired to get up and get moving than someone who doesn’t own a dog. Owning a dog also staves off loneliness and depression, especially in older people. Just petting your dog can lower blood pressure as well as provide love and companionship.
Furry four-legged companions are a source of love and comfort to everyone but can be especially helpful for the lonely. By encouraging you to get up and get moving, they are also a great way to keep your heart healthy and happy. Dogs truly are a person’s best friend.
Written by Gila Isaacson