February is heart health month!
Make sure you give Fido a lovely Valentine this month; he or she may be giving your heart a healthy boost. A growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help with heart health by lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels and even reducing mortality after cardiac events.
One study published recently reviewed patient data from more than 3.8 million people in 10 separate studies. Compared to non-owners, dog owners had a 24% reduced risk of dying from any cause; a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular-related issues; and a 65% reduced risk dying after a heart attack, according to the reports published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death, responsible for one in four deaths, according to the CDC.
“Owning dogs has previously been linked to better mental health and feeling less lonely, which are both thought to decrease the risk of heart attacks,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice. “While this new body of research doesn’t prove causality, it certainly furthers the connection.”
The Mayo Clinic is following a ground-breaking longitudinal study in the Czech Republic that began in 2013 with 1,769 adults, 24% of whom were dog owners. The participants are assessed every five years on the American Heart Association’s seven criteria for heart health: BMI, healthy diet, physical activity level, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose, and total cholesterol.
The results released this fall confirmed the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular health (CVH) as defined by the AHA. People who owned a pet, and specifically a dog, were more likely to report scores for physical activity, diet, and blood glucose components at higher levels. This translated into higher CVH score among owners of dogs or other pets than non-owners. In fact, dog owners exhibited better CVH even than owners of other pets. The subjects will be followed until 2030.
While researchers do not yet understand why dog ownership seems to improve blood glucose and lipid profiles, there’s historical proof that petting your dog reduces blood pressure.
So pet away, and give your heart to your fur-friend: they’ll help keep it healthy!