Owning a pet could be good for your heart – especially if it’s a dog – according to a new study.
Research found that pet owners are likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level, compared to those with no pets at all.
However, the greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.
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The findings, published by the Mayo Clinic journal, are based on a first analysis of data from the Kardiozive Brno 2030 study which followed 1,769 people in the Czech Republic with no history of heart disease over five years. The subjects were scored based on Life’s Simple 7 ideal health behaviours and factors, as outlined by the American Heart Association: body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol. Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, chair of the division of preventive cardiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US and a senior investigator of the study, explained that having a dog may prompt owners to “go out, move around and play with their dog regularly”.
Dr Andrea Maugeri is a researcher with the International Clinical Research Centre at St Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, Czech Republic, and the University of Catania in Italy. He says: “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.”
Plan for When You’re Not There. Make sure your pets are provided for during those long hours when you’re away. Dr. Becker suggests technological options. “DOGTV has stimulation and relaxation channels, and there are apps that control contraptions that talk to your pet, or dispense treats. Pheromone sprays can also reduce anxiety, creating that kumbaya atmosphere.” And, of course, daycare and dog walkers are a great way to enrich your pet’s day. “Know someone who wants exercise? Maybe they’ll walk your dog.”
The researchers plan on continuing to evaluate the data every five years until the study concludes in 2030.
Earlier this year, a separate study found that dog owners walk 870 miles a year with their pet.
Other studies have also found that owning a dog can help improve mental health and emotional wellbeing.