A study published Friday in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings says that owning a pet, especially a dog, may help maintain a healthy heart – in case you needed any more reason to head to your local animal shelter.
The study began in 2013 and 2014, when researchers gathered health and socioeconomic information on over 2,000 people in Brno, Czech Republic, and scheduled follow-up evaluations for every five years until 2030.
The latest was this year, in 2019, when researchers again looked at about 2,000 people with no history of heart disease. They scored the participants on the American Heart Association’s list of seven ideal health behaviors and factors, also known as “Life’s Simple 7”: body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol.
The researchers compared the cardiovascular health scores of pet owners with those of petless people. In general, people who owned a pet were more physically active than those who did not, with healthier diets and blood sugar levels.
But then they compared dog owners with everyone else and found that no matter their age, sex or education level, they benefited the most in terms of cardiovascular health.
Take that, cat people.
The findings are consistent with research that has shown that dog ownership leads to more physical activity. Meanwhile, pet ownership in general reduces stress, betters our self-esteem and makes us more social.
Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, one of the lead researchers on the team, said what makes this study so significant is that it showed the benefits of having a dog go beyond just increased physical activity. The study included many factors that determined the health of the heart and arteries, like showing that dog-owners tend to also have a healthier diet than other pet-owners – thus contributing to a better cardiovascular health.
It’s “putting everything together and not just focused on a single factor,” he told CNN.
But he also pointed out that the results may be skewed, simply because so many people own dogs. Of the 42 percent of subjects that owned any type of pet, 24 percent were owned dogs.