Any dog owner will tell you that having a pup is good for the heart, but usually, they are referring to an emotional health, like with pet therapy. However, more and more scientific studies are showing that owning a dog literally keeps your heart healthy.
According to one Swedish study from the end of 2017, having a dog cuts your risk of heart disease. Researchers studied nearly 3.4 million Swedish people between the ages of 40 and 80 for a 12-year study. The researchers took into account factors like age, sex, marital status, and income as well.
What did they discover? Dog ownership was linked to a 20% lower risk of any cause of death, and it was associated with a 23% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, AKA heart disease.
“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results. Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” said Tove Fall, Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University and senior author of the study.
Simply being around dogs may help patients who already suffer from cardiovascular disease. In a 2009 study done at UCLA Medical Center, patients with heart failure who interacted with therapy dogs for a mere 12 minutes on a daily basis had reduced blood pressure, anxiety, and heart rate–all major contributors to heart disease.
Even the American Heart Association agrees that having a dog keeps your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape. In 2013, the organization suggested that owning a dog could be beneficial for your heart.
“We didn’t want to make this too strong of a statement,” Dr. Levine, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and AHA member, told the New York Times. “But there are plausible psychological, sociological and physiological reasons to believe that pet ownership might actually have a causal role in decreasing cardiovascular risk.”
Dogs keep you healthy in a multitude of other ways as well. In fact, some of the ways your dog keeps you healthy are surprising. They can help keep you active, boost your mood, and they even build up your immune system. The fact that your pup helps keep your ticker in good standing is just the cherry on top.