Every year cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for 17 million deaths globally, so when a recent study demonstrated that dog ownership may help to reduce CVD risk factors and maintain a healthy heart, that is an important story. When the research was conducted by the renowned Mayo Clinic it becomes an even bigger story.
The findings examine the association of dog ownership with cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular health and reflects the first analysis of data from the Kardiozive Brno 2030 study. This work was conducted from January 2013 to December 2014 in Brno, Czech Republic, with 2,000 subjects. Further evaluations will take place until 2030 in five-year intervals.
This current evaluation looked at 1,769 subjects (aged from 25 to 64 years; 44.3% were male) all of whom had no history of heart disease and researchers scored them on the American Heart Association’s “Life's Simple 7 ideal health behaviors and factors: body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol.”
Those health scores were measured for those who had dogs compared with those who did not. 42% of the subjects owned a pet: 24.3% had a dog and 17.9% had another animal.
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“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” says Andrea Maugeri, Ph.D., a researcher with the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne's University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania in Catania, Italy. "The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level." Their findings are in line with the American Heart Association’s 2013 scientific statement that concluded that pet ownership (primarily dog ownership) is associated with decreased CVD risks, with “convincing evidence for a relationship with increased physical activity and social engagement.”
Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., the senior investigator of this study (and dog owner) and chair of the Division of Preventive Cardiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, says that “having a dog may prompt owners to go out, move around and play with their dog regularly. Owning a dog also has been linked to better mental health in other studies and less perception of social isolation—both risk factors for heart attacks.”