Dog ownership tied to better heart health «
Heart disease remains the biggest cause of death for Americans today, with a disproportionate impact on people over age 55. But the American Heart Association is saying this week that heart disease may be one of the many problems in life that a dog could help you cope with. In a brief “scientific statement” in the association’s journal, Circulation, a group of heart researchers said that pet ownership in general, and dog ownership in particular, is “probably associated” with a lower risk of heart problems.
Shutterstock.comPart of a heart-healthy lifestyle?Notice the careful, super-hedgy language. (In other words: Heel, dog owners!) The heart association researchers reviewed and found persuasive an array of studies that showed, among other things, that dog owners tended to get more exercise than non-owners; that they had slightly lower cholesterol levels; and that the presence of a pet reduced the body’s reaction to stress. But as in many areas of medical research, there’s the canine version of a chicken-and-egg question playing out here. The studies were “correlational,” meaning they didn’t prove cause-and-effect, and the team couldn’t determine whether relatively active, healthy people were more likely to become dog owners in the first place. The researchers also said that more research was needed on whether acquiring a pet could lead to better outcomes for people who had already been diagnosed with heart disease.
Also, as Anahad O’Connor of the New York Times notes, owning a dog doesn’t appear to do you any good if you don’t personally walk it. O’Connor cites a study showing that dog-owners who don’t walk their dogs are significantly more likely to be obese than people who don’t own dogs at all.