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A woman plays with her brown dog in a park.

Puppy Love: Why Dog Owners Tend to Have Healthier Hearts

Feb 05, 2020

If you ask a dog lover what the best thing about their pet is, you’ll probably hear about their dog’s loyalty, goofy personality, or general cuteness. However, dogs have a lesser-known power: they can help improve your cardiovascular health. We all know dogs can easily steal our hearts, but here are three major ways they can help you heal yours. 

Dog Owners Tend to Exercise More  

Whether you’re taking man’s best friend out for a game of fetch or you prefer a brisk walk with your pup, having a dog is a great way to get more exercise into your schedule. In fact, one study found that more than 67% of dog owners reached the recommended amount of physical activity each week, while only 48% of non-owners did the same. 

Dog Owners Tend to Handle Stress Better 

When you experience stress, there is a surge of cortisol, a hormone that speeds up your heart rate and puts you into fight-or-flight mode. After the stressor is gone, it takes the body a while to go back to normal. However, studies have found that dog owners had milder reactions to stress and were able to return to a normal state much quicker than non-owners. This is beneficial to your health, as high levels of chronic stress can raise your blood pressure and weaken your immune system.  

Dog Owners Tend to Live Longer 

While your furry friend might age in “dog years,” they can help you add some real years onto your life. A 2019 study found that people who owned dogs were 31% less likely than non-owners to die from a heart attack or stroke and were 24% less likely to die from any other cause. This could be due to the protective factors of regular exercise and stress management.  

Whether or not you’re a dog owner, healing your heart doesn’t have to be “ruff.” If you’re looking for more ways to improve your cardiovascular health, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. They can help you find fun, easy ways to improve your heart health and refer you to a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group cardiologist for additional resources if needed. 

Sources: 
Harvard Health Publishing | Having a dog can help your heart — literally
Spectrum Health | A top cardio plan: Get a canine
USA Today | Pets may boost heart health, association says
American Heart Association Newsroom | Dog ownership associated with longer life, especially among heart attack and stroke survivors