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Dogs fetch better heart health for their people

A woman laughs while holding a small dog.

Bless your heart—and mine!Oct. 1, 2019—Here's a head's up—well, maybe a tail's up—if you're considering adopting a pet: It's a smart move for your heart, in more ways than one. Having a pet, particularly a dog, can help keep your heart healthy, a new study suggests.

No bones about it

Researchers collected information on over 1,700 people with no history of heart disease. They scored participants using the American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7" risk factors that affect heart health, including:

  • Blood pressure.
  • Blood sugar.
  • Cholesterol.
  • Diet.
  • Exercise.
  • Smoking.
  • Weight.

Researchers then compared the scores of pet owners with petless people.

Overall, pet owners were more likely to report more physical activity, a better diet and healthier blood sugar than people without pets. Dog owners benefited the most, regardless of their age, sex or education level.

Pooch perks—what explains them

What might make a dog your heart's best friend? In some ways, dogs may function as a furry personal trainer. They prompt people to go outside and move more, the researchers said.

Having a dog at home is also linked to better mental health and less social isolation, past studies show. And that can protect against heart disease too.

What if having a dog just isn't feasible for you? Then you might want to call your local shelter and volunteer to be a dog walker. You can both benefit from your time together.

The study appeared in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes.

Check out the Heart Health topic center to learn more about your heart—and how to keep it happy.

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