BRNO, Czech Republic — There are plenty of reasons to own a dog; companionship and exercise are just a few benefits that immediately come to mind. Now, a new study conducted in the Czech Republic has found that owning a pet, specifically a dog, can help people maintain a healthy heart and reduce one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
This study is the first to utilize data collected for the Kardiozive Brno 2030, a long-term population analysis of cardiovascular health risks in central and eastern Europe aimed at eliminating or minimizing those risks significantly by 2030.
A total of 1,769 participants were analyzed, all of whom had no history of heart disease. Each person was also scored based on the seven ideal heart health behaviors and factors, as described by the American Heart Association; exercise, smoking habits, body mass index, diet, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose.
The cardiovascular scores of pet owners were then compared to participants who didn’t own any pets. After that, the cardiovascular scores of just dog owners were compared to both other pet owners and people who didn’t have pets.
After analyzing their findings, researchers say that pet owners in general seemed to be in better cardiovascular health, but dog owners were a cut above the rest.
“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, in a media release. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”
Overall, researchers say that their findings indicate an association between owning a dog and improved heart health, mainly because dog ownership usually promotes a more active lifestyle. Additionally, dogs often work as stress relievers for their owners, even when we as humans may not necessarily realize they are comforting us or improving our mood. Previous research has already linked dog ownership to improved mental health and less perceived social isolation.
According to Dr. Maugeri, if an individual is looking to improve their cardiovascular health and engage in a more active lifestyle, adopting a dog from a local shelter or purchasing a new pup would be a sound strategy.
The study is published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes.