Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Also known as cardiovascular disease (CVD), it is responsible for nearly 18 million global deaths per year, which is around 31% of all deaths (according to the World Health Organization). CVD is also the leading cause of death in the United States. Around 647,000 people die from heart disease each year, which accounts for about 25% of all U.S. deaths (according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention). But research has shown that owning a dog may help improve heart health. Several studies have demonstrated that dog ownership is correlated to reduced CVD risk factors and can thus be a significant part of lowering ones risk of heart disease. Here are six ways dogs can improve heart health, provide cardiovascular benefits and help with heart disease prevention:
1. Physical Exercise
One of the biggest benefits of owning a dog is that they require physical exercise, which means you'll get some too. For starters, all dogs need to go out to the bathroom, even lazy or low-maintenance ones. Those daily trips so your dog can do its business may be short but they provide you with some exercise. Furthermore, dogs have energy they need to expend, whether through walks or playtime. Because of this, dogs prompt their owners to get moving, go outside and play with them.
2. Better Stress Management
Dogs have a calming effect on humans and have been shown to help people better handle stress. Research has shown that, when stressed, dog owners experience less spikes in heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, their heart rate and blood pressure return to normal levels more quickly, which minimizes the effects of stress on the body.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
On a related note, several studies have demonstrated that people who own dogs tend to have lower blood pressure than those who don't. This is in part because of the aforementioned calming effect dogs have on their humans. But it's also because of the increased physical activity and fitness levels exhibited by dog owners. Research has also shown that a person's blood pressure decreases when petting a dog - something dog owners do regularly.
4. Healthier Choices
Physical exercise is just one aspect of living a healthy life and dog owners tend to make healthier choices beyond that. For example, research has shown that people with dogs stick to a better diet and recorded ideal blood sugar levels because of that. Studies have even demonstrated that having a dog is linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. But in general, dogs require a routine and that helps people keep a healthier schedule. In addition, dog owners prioritize their pup's health and that can make them more aware and attentive to their own health.
5. Social Engagement
Dogs are pack animals, so they naturally and instinctively want to spend time with you - they will even follow you into the bathroom. So you'll never really be alone with a dog. Studies have shown that spending time with your dog can have similar effects and benefits as hanging out with your friends or family. This is because interacting with dogs raises levels of oxytocin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that promote positive emotions and bonding.
Not only do dogs provide companionship themselves, but they bring about an opportunity for social engagement and community. While walking your dog, there's a good chance you'll see other people or dog owners. And because dogs are such social beings, they may want to meet the person or dog. Research supports this, showing that owning a dog is associated with reduced feelings of social isolation, which is a risk factor for heart attacks.
6. Overall Happiness
In general, owning a dog can help increase happiness and improve our mood. They are always happy to see you and knowing that someone loves you that much can be very comforting. In addition, studies have demonstrated that owning a dog is associated with improved mental health, which is another risk factor for heart attacks.