For a Healthier Heart, Get a Dog

Want to improve your heart health? Get a dog!

Most dog owners will tell you that having a dog makes them feel better. They’ve got “someone” in their lives that provides unconditional love, is always happy to see them and just makes them feel better.

It turns out that there may be something to their claims – something scientifically measurable.

According to the initial analysis of the data from the Kardiozive Brno 2030 study, owning a dog might actually improve your cardiovascular health. This study is looking at the correlation between owning a pet and cardiovascular risk factors and overall cardiovascular health. Specifically, the study is focused on dog ownership.

The study, whose results are published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, began with 2,000 participants in the city of Brno, in the Czech Republic. The study ran from January 2013 through December 2014 and has follow-up evaluations scheduled at five year intervals through 2030. Researchers began by establishing baseline health and socio-economic profiles on each participant.

2019 marked the first of the five year interval follow-up evaluations. In this evaluation, 1,769 subjects with no cardiovascular disease history were reviewed and scored on the Life’s Simple 7 series of ideal health factors and behaviors. These are outlined by the American Heart Association as blood pressure, blood glucose, total cholesterol, body mass index, diet, physical activity and smoking status.

Researchers compared the cardiovascular health scores of pet owners against those who did not own pets, then compared the scores of dog owners versus other pet owners and non-pet owners. They were mildly surprised to find that dog owners fared best.

“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” says Andrea Maugeri, Ph.D., a researcher with the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania in Catania, Italy. “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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This study appears to demonstrate a clear connection between owning a dog and better heart health. This correlates with the American Heart Association’s own scientific statement regarding the benefits of owning a dog. This statement connects owning a dog to higher levels of physical activity, more social and emotional engagement and reduced cardiovascular risk as a result.

Dr. Magueri believes that the study’s findings back up the notion that adopting, rescuing or otherwise acquiring a pet is a way to improve cardiovascular health. Provided, that is, that dog ownership actually leads them to a more physically active lifestyle.

According to Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., chair of the Division of Preventive Cardiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, having a dog may get people out of the house, moving around and playing with their dog. In addition to this, numerous previous studies have shown a connection between dog ownership and better mental health, including lowered perception of social isolation. Stress, mental health issues and social isolation are all interconnected risk factors for heart attack.

Better cardiovascular health, better mental health and improved quality of life. Maybe dogs really are “man’s best friend.”

Keep the faith and keep after it!

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Journal Reference – Andrea Maugeri, Jose R. Medina-Inojosa, Sarka Kunzova, Martina Barchitta, Antonella Agodi, Manlio Vinciguerra, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez. Dog Ownership and Cardiovascular Health: Results From the Kardiovize 2030 Project. Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, 2019

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