Pet ownership may contribute to healthier hearts

According to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), pet ownership likely contributes to a lowered risk of heart disease.

The organization reviewed previous studies to confirm its opinion about the positive correlation between owning pets and maintaining healthier hearts. While the AHA did not propose that previous research proves definitively that owning a pet is a direct cause of lowered heart disease risks, the organization did discuss several reasons why pet owners might have healthier hearts.

The AHA mentioned other previous research indicating that pet ownership may contribute to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, decreased incidence of obesity, and bodies that are better able to handle stress.

The link between pet ownership and better health is especially true with dogs, the AHA said based on previous research it analyzed. The organization cited a study of more than 5,200 adults finding that dog owners were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity than non-dog owners.

While the AHA believes in the positive correlation between pet ownership and decreased heart disease risk, there is more research to be done concerning whether pet ownership can help people with pre-existing heart disease, said Glenn N. Levine, MD, professor at Baylor College of Medicine and chair of the committee that wrote the statement.

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