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Dogs Improve Physical and Cardiovascular Health

The American Heart Association provides a scientific statement on the benefits of pet ownership to our health.

For Health & Fitness Wednesdays, let's take note of the fact that February is American Heart Month. We always focus on learning more about canine health, but since agility is a physical sport for both owner and dog, it's important to take care of our own cardiovascular and overall health.

The American Heart Association published a scientific statement in 2013 regarding the effects of owning a pet and human cardiovascular health. The statement discussed the ways that living with a dog can improve our own health. Several studies have found that pet owners have lower blood pressure than non-dog owners, even when they had similar body sizes and lifestyles. One interesting study compared people with borderline rates of hypertension, some of whom adopted a dog from a shelter. After five months from the adoption, the dog-adopting group had lower blood pressure than the group that did not adopt dogs. After the close of the study, all of the participants adopted dogs, and they found after time that this second adopter group also ended up with lower blood pressure.

In terms of cholesterol levels, research has found that pet owners have much lower triglyceride levels than people who do not own pets, and non-pet owners had a higher incidence of diabetes and elevated cholesterol. Pet owners also appear better able to handle stress. Owning a dog is also significantly related to fewer deaths among people who suffer from cardiovascular disease. In fact, in one study patients who owned dogs were found to be four times more likely to survive having cardiovascular disease than non-dog owners.

One of the most significant benefits that the statement presents is the effect that dogs have on a humans physical activity. Dog owners obviously tend to have more exercise than non-dog owners due to a dog needing to be walked. Some studies have found that having a dog also reduces the risk of a child obesity. Having a dog can also help support people attempting to lose weight, either on their own or as part of a program, because of the emotional support having a pet can provide.

We all know owning a dog provides a wealth of benefits and brings joy to our lives, whether we're competing in agility or hanging out together on the couch at home. It's good to know that they provide additional health benefits as well! If you would like to know more about the statement, you can access it at the American Heart Association website. And remember to take care of your own heart health this month to ensure you and your dog can continue to play and compete together!

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