By Robert Harizi, MD
Chief of Cardiology
Reliant Medical Group
Our canine companions may be more important than we think when it comes to our heart health. In fact, a panel of experts from the American Heart Association (AHA) has stated that owning a dog can help lower the risk of heart disease.
What’s more, evidence reviewed by the AHA indicated that dog owners are more likely to exercise, have a healthier cholesterol profile, enjoy lower blood pressure and be more likely to survive a heart attack. Of course, it could be that healthier people are more likely to be pet owners or that people with dogs tend to exercise more. However, the AHA panel was confident enough to state, “Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may be reasonable for reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.”
Health Benefits From Pets are Wide-ranging
The panel from the AHA decided to make the statement due to the growing number of medical studies that link pet ownership to better health. Other research has shown that forming close bonds with pets can help blunt people’s reactions to stress and help lower their heart rate. In addition, pet owners are known to engage in greater amounts of physical activity and have modestly lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Many researchers believe that dog owners have the edge in health benefits over cats and other pets due to the fact that dog owners are out walking each day getting exercise with their dogs. This means if you own a Great Dane and hire a dog walker every day, you shouldn’t expect to enjoy the same health benefits as those who actually exercise their dogs.
In any case, there’s more and more evidence that our furry friends are good for our overall health and well-being. So if you need some help convincing your family that getting a dog is a good idea, just tell them it could be the first step to better health.
About Robert Harizi, MD, Chief of Cardiology
During his time as a cardiologist, Dr. Robert Harizi has learned that each patient is truly unique and often needs individualized therapy. “After making a diagnosis, I try to tailor the treatment which has the highest likelihood of success to that person. Before you begin any treatment plan, you have to take into consideration a patient’s lifestyle, what their job is, what their attitudes are – a comprehensive approach. It’s very...View profile View posts by this doctor
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I’m a pediatric nurse practitioner at Reliant Medical Group on Plantation Street, and I discuss pet ownership at every physical examination visit. For my doctoral research, I studied a small group of well children, and the relationship between pet ownership and quality of life. A subset of that study examined child attachment and quality of life. Interestingly enough, children with strong attachments to their cat or dog had higher physical activity quality of life scores, not only if they had a dog, but cats had the same effect too. I encourage my families to own pets, if they are able, and have the desire to share their homes with an animal companion.
We are not yet ready for another dog (had Major for 14 yrs), but this info has finally motivated me to introduce my hubby to our exercise machine. He had a heart attack 3.5 yrs ago.