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Dublin: 0°C Sunday 7 March 2021

Own a dog? You may have a healthier heart as a result

Truly, human’s best friend.

Happy in the knowledge they are helping to keep their human healthy.
Happy in the knowledge they are helping to keep their human healthy.
Image: Shutterstock/archimede

OWNING A DOG helps people to maintain a healthy heart, according to new research.

An ongoing European study is examining the association of pet ownership – specifically dog ownership – with cardiovascular health and risks.

The first results of the study, which are being published today, found that dog ownership can have a positive impact on a person’s heart health.

More than 2,000 people in the Czech Republic entered into the study from January 2013 to December 2014, and their baseline health and socioeconomic information was gathered by researchers.

As part of the study, participants are due to be evaluated every five years until 2030.

In the 2019 evaluation, the study looked at 1,769 subjects with no history of heart disease and evaluated their overall health based on factors such as body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure and cholesterol.

The study compared the cardiovascular health scores of pet owners overall to those who did not own pets. Then it compared dog owners to other pet owners and those who did not own pets.

Physical activity and diet 

Compared with owners of other pets, dog owners were more likely to report physical activity and good diet.

The 1,769 people in the study ranged in age from 25-64 years. The group consisted of 44.3% men and 55.7% women.

Approximately 42% of people owned any type of pet: 429 (24.3%) owned a dog (328 owned exclusively dogs and 101 owned dogs and other pets), whereas 317 (17.9%) owned another animal.

In general, pet owners were younger and less educated. They were more likely to perform physical activity than non-pet owners but also more likely to smoke tobacco – which had a negative impact on their health.

The research notes that while many factors play a role in cardiovascular health, pet owners also exhibited better cholesterol levels and lower prevalence of diabetes.

“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” Andrea Maugeri PhD, a researcher at St Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, said. 

The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.

Pet ownership has also been linked to better mental health in other studies, as well as a way to combat loneliness and social isolation – both risk factors for heart attacks, researchers noted.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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