We instinctively know that pets are good for us but it takes science to prove it. Here Hannah Wadley and medical doctor Dr Ryan Harvey look at the links between dog ownership and our heart health and show that science backs up that dogs are great for human hearts…
If you are undecided about whether you should get a dog this Christmas, look no further. Research has proven there is a connection with dog owners having healthier hearts than non-dog owners.
A 12-year study on more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 examined the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health.
The study determined dog owners who lived alone had a lower rate of cardiovascular disease and a lower risk of death, due to the social support and motivation for physical activity.
The researchers analysed Swede healthcare patient data which tracked hospital visits. After a de-identification process, the researchers used the data to compare it with two large dog ownership databases, as dog registration is mandatory in Sweden.
The results showed that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) during follow-up compared to single, non-owners.
Hunting breeds, such as terriers and retrievers, showed the strongest link to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in their owners.
Pet Problems Solved talked to Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor this week to get his medical opinion on the health benefits of having a dog.
“I see mental and physical health benefits in having a dog,” says Dr Harvey. “Walking your dog regularly naturally keeps yourself active, which can contribute to you losing weight and keeping a lower blood pressure”.
“What’s also good is that you are motivated to exercise because you see it as a responsibility to the dog”, says Dr Harvey.
Dogs are also a great way to reduce stress in the mind.
“There are reasons why therapy dogs are so effective,” says Dr Harvey.
Studies have shown that therapy dogs can bring anxiety relief to people, because they induce naturally happy hormones like dopamine and beta-endorphins in the brain. They can also offer psychological benefits in well-being and self-esteem, by lowering levels of depression and loneliness.
Before you go running to adopt your next dog, always be sure your lifestyle fits in with giving your dog the right level of love and care.
About the authors:
Dr Ryan Harvey is the Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor. Dr Harvey is highly experienced in paediatrics, and has administered medical care to children living in remote overseas communities. He now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight.
Hannah Wadley writes for Adoni Media.