Can Dog Ownership Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease?

Sure, we’re dog people. We already believe that pets make us better humans. But did you know there is actual science behind it? Dogs can help you reduce stress, boost your mood, get more exercise, and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. And the American Heart Association believes it too. The group concluded that owning a dog was “probably associated” with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Dr. Levine, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine has said in the past, “there are plausible psychological, sociological and physiological reasons to believe that pet ownership might actually have a causal role in decreasing cardiovascular risk.”

As dog owners, we’ve known for a long time that when you own a dog, you have more reason to get outside and take walks. And studies have shown that most owners form such close bonds with their pets that being in their presence only helps blunt our reactions to stress and lowers our heart rates.

We understand that most of this evidence is observational, which makes it impossible to rule out the simple fact that people who are more active and healthier in the first place are the kind of people that are simply more likely to bring a dog into their home. Pet owners also tended to report greater amounts of physical activity, and modestly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some research showed that people who had pets of any kind were also more likely to survive heart attacks.

Dr. Levine concluded by saying that they were not recommending that people adopt pets for any reason other than to give them a good home.

“If someone adopts a pet, but still sits on the couch and smokes and eats whatever they want and doesn’t control their blood pressure,” he said, “that’s not a prudent strategy to decrease their cardiovascular risk.”

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