Risk for Heart Disease May Be Cut by Ownership and Care of a Dog
Heart disease may be less common in pet owners, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation.
Professor Glenn N. Levine, M.D. of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his colleagues reviewed scientific studies in the literature, including one study of 30 participants with borderline hypertension (high blood pressure). During the study, they had the participants either adopt a dog from a rescue shelter or continue pet-free.
The researchers in the randomized study evaluated the heart health of the participants at two and five month intervals. At each evaluation the dog owners showed lower systolic blood pressure. As all of the participants in the study adopted dogs, the drop in blood pressure was similar in each group.
Another trial gathered a group of 48 stockbrokers with hypertension and had several adopt a dog or cat, while the rest remained pet-less. The study measured the response to mental stress after six months and found that the pet owners had lower blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin activity.
One of the reasons that dog ownership may reflect positively on heart health and decreased risk of heart disease is the need to walk and exercise dogs. Physical activity plays a large role in heart health and prevention of heart disease, as well as reducing risk factors for other disabling conditions such as diabetes.
Pet ownership has been a topic of evaluation for many past studies, including the effects of animal companionship on obesity, stress, and cholesterol control. The researchers are not claiming that pet ownership has a direct correlation with heart disease risk and hypertension relief. The American Heart Association, in its scientific statement, recommends pet ownership could be helpful to reduce risk of heart disease, though it points out that this should not be the sole reason for adopting a pet.
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