Unsurprisingly, a dog is your heart’s best friend in more ways than one. Starting with the domestication of the wolf, thousands of years ago, dogs and men have interacted.

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The special bond they developed closely linked the two species. Now, research is showing what dog lovers have instinctively known for years.

with his foot, friendship, pads

What is the evidence?

A study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (by Maugeri et al), demonstrated that dogs have a positive relationship with their owner’s health.

Clearly, according to this study, both cardiovascular health and the overall well-being of their owners is improved. Their findings were based on 7 key health factors emphasized by the American Heart Association.

  • Pet owners reported higher levels of physical activity (PA) and improved mental health.
  • People who own pets adhere to a heart-healthy diet better than those who do not own a pet.
  • Their blood work revealed higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
  • Labs also proved they had lower levels of blood glucose and less diabetes.
  • PA and diet were more favorable in dog owners than in owners of any other animal.
  • Dog ownership was also correlated with a significantly higher overall cardiovascular health score than those with a different kind of pet or no pet at all.
  • Mayo Clinic Proceedings Aug 24

How do they protect our hearts?

Experts have long recommended canine companionship as protection against cardiovascular disease (CVD). In English, this means that your dog is your heart’s best friend!

Additionally, research indicates that bringing a dog into the home can:

  • Improve adherence to an exercise program,
  • Enhance fitness, and
  • Reduce the visceral fat of its human family members.

Without a doubt, cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the major cause of death worldwide. Lack of physical activity and overweight/obesity are two of the major risk factors for CVD, disability and early death.

Alternatively, regular PA, exercise, and fitness have the ability to greatly improve our health. Unsurprisingly, physical activity alone offers several beneficial effects.

And, at least 5 of the 6 risk factors for having a heart attack are improved.

  • lipid profiles,
  • stress,
  • diabetes,
  • hypertension,
  • abdominal obesity.

Does it matter where it takes place?

Clearly, humans walking or playing with their dogs get more outdoor exercise. This is thought to provide even greater health benefits.

Recently, a study showed that walking is a major benefit to human health. Furthermore, walking in a natural outdoor environment is desirable.

It is correlated with higher reported levels of health and well-being. Higher levels of physical activity, exercise, and fitness do more than improve CVD outcomes.

They are also known to help lower anxiety, depression, hostility, and emotional distress. Usually, there is a very strong emotional bond that develops between a dog and his human.

This bond positively affects both the human heart and mental health. Apparently, the health benefits are greatest for a dog living with one person.

But, all family members do better when there is a family dog. Obviously, the presence of a dog in the home causes a lifestyle shift for the better.

Healthier lifestyles produce healthier families. It is nice to know that science has caught up with what we already knew. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that our dogs are our best friends.


The Human-Canine Bond: A Heart’s Best Friend
James H. O’Keefe, MD∗, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO
Evan L. O’Keefe, MS, Ochsner Clinical School, The University of Queensland School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA
Carl J. Lavie, MD Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, New Orleans, LA
Botigué, L.R., Song, S., Scheu, A. et al. Ancient European dog genomes reveal continuity since the Early Neolithic. Nat Commun. 2017; 8: 16082
Maugeri, A., Lopez-Jimenez, F., Medina-Inojosa, J. et al. Dog ownership and cardiovascular health: results from the Kardiovize 2030 project. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019; 3: 268–275

Photos Courtesy of My Personal Photo Album

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As Wife, Mother of 5, and Nana of many more, I have known and loved many dogs who were treasured members of our family. My education, experiences in showing, breeding, and developing pedigree-based breeding programs for others gives me a strong background upon which to base articles of interest to most dog lovers. However, it is my great love for dogs that gives me the passion to share them with other dog lovers.


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