Your Dog May Help You Live Happier Longer
The US is home to nearly 70-M pet dogs, and their owners enjoy unconditional love, loyal companionship and often lovably quirky personalities as a result.
These intangible benefits of dog ownership are what make them the most popular pet in America
Yet, some of the benefits of pet ownership can be measured and quantified, many of them as they relate to good health. There’s no question that curling up next to your dog at the end of a long day is warming to the soul, but research continues to confirm that your canine partner in crime may be making you physically healthier as well.
People who own dogs have a lower risk of heart disease and a lower risk of premature death than non-dog owners, with the benefit being particularly pronounced among singles.
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers explained: “Dogs may be beneficial in reducing cardiovascular risk by providing a non-human form of social support and increasing physical activity. Dog ownership has been reported to be associated with alleviation of social isolation and improved perception of wellbeing, particularly in single persons and the elderly.”
Among single-person households, dog owners had a 33% lower risk of premature death and a 36% lower risk of heart disease than those without a dog. Among those with dogs living in multi-person households, premature death and heart disease death risk were 11% and 15% lower, respectively.
Part of the benefit could be linked to increased physical activity, which dog owners tend to have over non-dog owners.
Among older women dog ownership was associated with a higher likelihood of walking at least 150 mins a week and a lower likelihood of being sedentary for 8 or more hours a day.
Other research that involved reviewing data from 9 studies revealed that nearly 2 in 3 dog owners walked their dogs, and those who did were more than 2.5X more likely to engage in healthy amounts of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
“These findings suggest that dog walking may be a viable strategy for dog owners to help achieve levels of PA [physical activity] that may enhance their health,” according to study authors.
Another way dogs may boost heart health and longevity is via beneficial effects on blood pressure. In a study of 1,570 peopled aged 60 years or over, owning a dog was associated with a 3.34 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure.
Dr. Ragavendra Baliga, a cardiologist and professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, said, “To put that into perspective, even a 2 mm reduction in systolic blood pressure is associated with a 6% reduction in stroke, a 4% reduction in coronary heart disease and a 3% reduction in overall mortality.”
And even the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that pets can decrease your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
From encouraging humans to get more exercise to potentially protecting heart health, increasing lifespan and helping to advance the fight against human diseases, it seems there is no end to the gifts dogs keep giving, and the many reasons why dogs continue to retain the title of ‘humans’ best friend.
By Dr. Karen Becker
Paul Ebeling, Editor