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Can a Pet Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease?

May 24, 2013

Time.com reports, "A panel of heart disease experts convened by the American Heart Association (AHA) reviewed research linking heart health and owning a pet and found that owning a pet is ‘probably associated’ with a lower risk of heart disease for those without a history of heart problems, and with greater survival rates among heart disease patients."

It should be noted that when the AHA says "pet," they are primarily referring to a cat or dog.

pet lower heart diseaseThis is good news if you already own a pet but note the "probably" in the AHA statement—this means that getting or having a pet is not a cure for heart disease. The AHA also observed that pet owners are not less likely to be overweight either.

But here is the good news about these findings: having a cat or dog can help reduce your chances of heart disease if being a pet owner makes you more active. Even if you aren't a pet owner but you walk someone else's dog on a regular basis, you are getting beneficial exercise. It is also possible that owning a pet can help increase your levels of anti-stress hormones and reducing stress helps your heart.

There is a study that found that people with dogs as pets saw their blood pressure lower and adults in a different survey were "54% more likely to get recommended levels of exercise and be active than non-dog owners."

This research does not mean you need to run out and get a dog or cat. After all, there are a lot of people who feed a pet but don't interact with their pet very much. If you already have a pet, make sure you are taking advantage of its companionship to get more exercise and lower stress levels.

Physical Activity Guidelines