Pets Are Beneficial To Your Heart Health
May 10, 2013

Link Between Pet Ownership And Decreased Heart Disease Risk Discovered

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Owning a pet — especially a dog — could help reduce a person´s risk of developing heart disease, according to a new scientific statement released Thursday by the American Heart Association.

The statement, which has been published online in the association´s journal Circulation, stops short of definitively saying that owning a pet causes a direct reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. However, it did find evidence of a positive link between pet ownership and heart disease risk factors.

“Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with a decreased risk of heart disease” Glenn N. Levine, MD, professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and the chairman of the committee that wrote the statement, said in a statement. “It may be simply that healthier people are the ones that have pets, not that having a pet actually leads to or causes reduction in cardiovascular risk.”

According to Reuters, the statement comes following a study of more than 5,200 adult Americans, which showed that dog owners were more physically active than non-owners because they walked their pets. Furthermore, previous research has demonstrated that pet ownership can have a calming effect on their owners, the wire service added.

The American Heart Association reported that dog owners were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity. In addition, they report that owning pets could be associated with lower blood pressure levels, decreased cholesterol levels, and a lower obesity incidence rate.

“In essence, data suggest that there probably is an association between pet ownership and decreased cardiovascular risk,” explained Levine. “What´s less clear is whether the act of adopting or acquiring a pet could lead to a reduction in cardiovascular risk in those with pre-existing disease. Further research, including better quality studies, is needed to more definitively answer this question.”

“Pets really might be man's best friend,” Barbara George, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Lifestyle Medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital, added in an interview with HealthDay News. “Studies have shown people who own pets, particularly dogs, have lower blood pressure, increased mood-related brain chemicals, better cholesterol numbers, lower weight and improved stress response.”

The American Pet Product Association 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey reports that more than 78 million US residents own a dog, and over 86 million are cat owners, Reuters said. However, even with the release of the new American Heart Association statement, Levine warns against joining their ranks by adopting, rescuing or purchasing a new pet solely for the possible reduction in cardiovascular risks.