Sure, Fido and Fifi can warm your heart. But if you ever wondered if the warm fuzzies aid your health, plenty of studies shed light on the subject. A recent scientific statement from the American Heart Association presents data on how pets can influence high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, physical activity and obesity, as well as how the heart responds to stimuli.
There isn’t much data on how pet ownership may affect levels of fat in the blood or help cardiovascular disease patients survive. But pets provide an opportunity for positive emotional interactions, and that can play a role in stress reduction. Stress often elicits symptoms in patients with heart disease.
Dogs owners are more likely to engage in physical activity than those who don’t have dogs, according to multiple international studies. In addition, an expanded analysis of more than 11 studies shows that dog owners walk significantly more often and are more active than those who don’t have dogs.
Of course, the AHA cautions that pet ownership is no substitute for good nutrition, regular exercise and knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
From my extensive experience in stress testing and preventive cardiology, I can always tell if someone is used to physical activity. Most often, these are not patients who spend hours exercising vigorously at a gym. Rather, they are daily recreational walkers who often enjoy a nice walk with a friend, spouse, or pet. Their consistency pays off handsomely, allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life and preserve their vitality.