Owning a dog is good for your HEART, claim scientists
Owning a dog is good for your HEART because it encourages you to go out, run around and play with your pooch, claim scientists
- Scientists analysed the health of a group of people – some of whom owned a pet
- Dog owners had the lowest risk for poor cardiovascular health
- This was based on a set of behavioural and biological measures – such as BMI
Owning a dog is good for your heart because they encourage you to get outdoors and run around, claim scientists.
Experts who analysed the health of hundreds of people found those who had a furry friend – especially a dog – were more likely to be physically active.
Dog-owners also had a better diet and were less likely to have diabetes, found the researchers based in Czechia.
Being active and having a good diet are key to cardiovascular health, while diabetes is known to boost the risk of heart disease.
Owning a dog is good for your heart because it encourages you to go out, run around and play with your pooch, claim scientists (stock)
The study, led by St Anne’s University Hospital Brno, recruited more than 2,000 people.
All of the participants were aged between 24 and 65 years, and had no history of heart disease.
They were given a heart health score, based on BMI, diet, exercise level, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol.
Face-to-face interviews asked all the volunteers about their socioeconomic status, medical history and if they smoked.
They quizzed participants on their activity levels, asking whether they sat at a desk all day, went to the gym or walked to work, for example.
WHAT IS CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.
It’s usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries, known as atherosclerosis.
It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.
CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, and the cause of 31 per cent of deaths globally, statistics show.
There are many different types of CVD, but the four main types are coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease and aortic diseases.
Four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, according to WHO.
More than 75 per cent of CVD deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries.
The exact cause of CVD isn’t clear, but there are many risk factors. The main ones are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, too much alcohol, diabetes, inactivity and obesity.
The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to get CVD. The risk also increases with age – it is the most common in those over 50 – if you are a man, or if you are from a south Asian, African or Caribbean background.
It’s recommended to have a balanced diet, with the addition of regular exercise, to ensure a healthy heart, including enough fruit and vegetables and low levels of salt, sugar and fat.
Each participant also revealed what they had eaten in the last 24 hours to assess general food habits.
Nurses then carried out some tests to assess the blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels of the participants.
The study compared the cardiovascular health scores – ranked from zero to 14 – of pet owners to those who did not own pets.
Pet owners had a median score of 10, whereas those who did not have pets had a score of nine. Dog owners had a 0.3 higher score than owners of pets in general.
Lead author Dr Andrea Maugeri said: ‘The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.
‘In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level.’
A total of 61.8 per cent of pet owners were in an ‘ideal’ range of exercise level, compared with 47.7 per cent of non-pet owners.
Around 16.4 per cent of non-pet owners had a ‘poor’ diet, compared to 9.4 per cent of pet owners.
Pet owners had higher HDL cholesterol – ‘good’ cholesterol – and a lower prevalence of diabetes, compared to those who did not have a pet.
The authors concluded dog owners are more likely to achieve a good heart health score, as they also had a lower weight and BMI.
But one thing that did dampen their score was that dog owners were more likely to be smokers.
The study is ongoing, as participants will have their health measured every five years until 2030.
Therefore it is unable to conclude at this stage whether dog owners will be protected from heart disease.
Dr Maugeri said people could adopt, rescue or purchase a pet as a potential strategy to improve their cardiovascular health.
The findings support American Heart Association (AHA) advice that owning a dog is beneficial in terms of physical activity, engagement and reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.
But the AHA said its own research into good heart health doesn’t actually prove that the benefits come directly from the pets.
Senior investigator of the study Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, said owning a dog prompt people to go outside and move regularly.
Owning a dog also has been linked to better mental health and less social isolation in other studies — both risk factors for heart attacks, Dr Lopez-Jimenez said.
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