The Heart Healthy Benefits of Owning A Dog

happiness heart health Apr 02, 2021

My little buddy Merf—a silky terrier—is not only a source of daily joy, he even helped nurse me back to health during a surgery recovery a few years ago, never leaving my side. 

And now a recent article from Harvard suggests that dogs may not just be man’s best friend— they can also help lower your risk for heart disease.

Today I want to show you the science behind this incredible discovery, as well as a few other natural ways keep your heart strong.

The furry motivator

A 2017 study in the journal Nature looked at the health and death records of over 3 million people in Sweden ages 40 to 80 for over ten years.

They found that:

  • People living in multi-person households with dogs had an 11 percent lower risk of death than in multi-person households without dogs AND the risk of death due to a cardiovascular cause that was 15 percent lower.
  • For those living alone, risk of death was 33 percent lower among dog owners., cardiovascular deaths were lower by 36 percent, and the risk of heart attack was 11 percent lower.
  • People who owned certain breeds of dogs, including retrievers and terriers, had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease.

So, why do dogs play such an important role in health?

Though more research still needs to be done, researchers point to several factors that may be in play.

  • Motivation to exercise: It has consistently been shown that dog owners achieve more physical activity and spend more time engaged in outdoor activities. (It’s also worth noting that single dog-owners tend to walk their dog more often than people in multiple-person households.)
  • Stress reduction: Dog ownership has been associated with elevated parasympathetic (rest and digest) and diminished sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activity. It's also been shown to support a faster recovery of blood pressure following stressful activity.
  • Better social coping and mood improvement: Having a dog has been connected with lowering psychosocial stress factors, such as social isolation, depression, and loneliness. A dog’s best trait is their unconditional affection for their owner. They also provide companionship that’s important to everyone—especially those who live alone. Companionship and affection are known mood boosters.

Now let’s take a look at a couple of ways to integrate the heart-protecting powers of owning a dog with other natural heart-healthy habits.

Heart-protecting music-pet combos

Here are a couple of heart health techniques that pair well with your pet:

The life-saving benefits of walking: Get the leash out, put on your shoes and go for a walk—even a short one! The American College of Cardiology analyzed the walking behavior and health outcomes of 89,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 and found that walking for at least 40 minutes several times a week decreased risk of heart failure by 25 percent. 

Music therapy for heart healing: Dogs love music, especially soft relaxing music. Why not turn off the TV and turn on some pre-sleep music to prepare both of you for a great night’s rest? 

So if you don’t already have a furry companion, consider adopting from your local animal shelter—or even just volunteering at your local humane society to walk the dogs. Your heart will be glad you did.


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Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study
Dogs and health: A lower risk for heart disease-related death?

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