Owning a pet can improve heart health

Can man’s best friend be a health benefit? The American Heart Association says so. According to medical researchers, an animal friend can improve an individual’s cardiovascular health.

In a press release, Dr. Glenn N. Levine of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston made the man-animal connection. He notes that pet ownership is likely connected with a diminished risk of heart disease, and that owning a dog in particular will further decrease this risk. Levine, director of the College’s cardiac care department, heads the committee which recently issued an American Heart Association policy statement on the subject.

A growing number of American households provide a loving home to a four-legged pal. In a survey by National Pet Owners, results showed that there are over 86 million owned cats nationally. Although slightly less popular, dogs number more than 78 million. The survey, which was administered by the American Pet Products Association, revealed that thirty-three percent of households own at least one cat, and 39 percent own at least one dog.

The American Heart Association committee examined previous studies on how pets influenced human health. Members of the committee discovered that owning a pet was related to increased survival among heart patients and fewer cardiovascular risk factors.

Specifically, owning a dog became closely linked to a decreased cardiovascular risk, likely due to dog owners engaging in exercise just by taking them for a quick stroll around the neighborhood. A study composed of more than 5,200 adults indicated that dog owners had higher levels of physical activity than non-dog owners. Statistically, 54 percent of dog owners were shown to reach or exceed the suggested standard of physical activity each week.

Owning a cat or dog was also connected with lower cholesterol levels, decreases in blood pressure and fewer incidences of obesity. The study demonstrated that pets also ease stress and anxiety. Of course, pet owners who still make poor food and lifestyle choices will not reap these same heart benefits. To combat illness or injury, the American Heart Association suggests that adults partake in 150 minutes of moderate-level aerobic activity. Another alternative is to engage in vigorous aerobic activity for 75 minutes each week.

While the American Heart Association does not endorse purchasing a pet as an automatic health booster, perhaps having some new company in the house will inspire owners to remain active and take care of themselves and their energetic mates.





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