New studies reveal that adopting a dog can improve your heart health. Here’s what we know.
For years, dogs have been man’s best friend. Our furry companions offer unconditional love, reduce our stress, and, according to two recently published studies, they might also have a positive impact on our heart health.
The studies from the Mayo Clinic and Circulation — published in August and October, respectively — reveal that dog owners live longer and fare better after a heart attack or stroke than do individuals who don’t own a canine friend or live with a spouse or children. In fact, some findings reveal that dog owners are 33 percent less likely to die after a heart attack or stroke compared to those who live alone.
A Closer Look At The Studies
The Kardiovize 2030 project, published by the Mayo Clinic this past August, sought to investigate the relationship between dog owners and their risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. It pooled data from over 1,700 applicants in Central Europe who were between the ages of 25 to 64. 42 percent of these participants owned a pet, and 24 percent specifically owned a dog.
The study found that pet owners, particularly dog owners, were more likely to have healthier diets, maintain lower blood sugar, and engage in physical activity. These attributes all contributed to dog owners achieving higher cardiovascular health score than non-dog owners.
Circulation’s Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes study, published just this past month, also sought to investigate the relationship between dog ownership and heart health. More specifically, the study aimed to understand the role dog ownership played in single-occupancy households.
Using data from the Swedish National Patient Register, medical information was collected from patients between the ages of 40 to 85 who had suffered a heart attack or a stroke between January 2001 and December 2012. Individual information like cause of death, socio-demographic data, and dog ownership data were also evaluated. To limit outliers, models were adjusted for pre-existing health conditions as well as socioeconomic and demographic factors like age, marital status, and income.
The study found that dog owners had a significantly lower risk of death after suffering a heart attack, especially compared to patients who lived alone. Additionally, the study found that dog owners who experienced strokes had lower risks of death afterwards.
Limitations of the Studies
Although both studies reveal an encouraging relationship between dog ownership and heart health, it is wrong to expect that adopting a dog can have an immediate impact on our health. The studies’ sample sizes aren’t large, and due to some unmeasured confounders, like smoking, it’s hard to know if there is a significant causal effect between dog ownership and healthy living habits.
While there are a plethora of studies about the benefits of dog ownership, if you are worried about your heart health, it’s prudent to make other, more proactive measures to improve your health.
Experts at the Harvard Medical School say that daily actions like taking a 10 minute morning walk, eating more vegetables, and washing your hands more frequently all have a tremendous impact on cardiovascular health. And while owning a dog may help us implement these daily best practices, they certainly aren’t dependent on it.
Heart Health Treatment
If you’re worried about your heart health, it’s wise to reach out to a local doctor to help you improve your cardiovascular well-being. Look no further than Tri-City Cardiology. Our specialists are experts in cardiovascular care. We are happy to sit down and talk to you about your concerns and walk you through treatment options for any heart or vascular disorders you may have.