Pets, especially dogs, linked with better cardiovascular health

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MeyerPet owners were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level, with the greatest benefits for those who owned a dog, independent of age, sex and education level, found an ongoing international collaborative study.

Owning a pet may help maintain a healthy heart, especially if that pet is a dog, according to the first analysis of data from the Kardiozive Brno 2030 study. The study examines the association of pet ownership – specifically dog ownership – with cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular health.

The study first established baseline health and socio-economic information on more than 2,000 subjects in the city of Brno, Czech Republic, from January 2013 through December 2014. Follow-up evaluations are scheduled for five-year intervals until 2030.

In the 2019 evaluation, the study looked at 1,769 subjects with no history of heart disease and scored them based on Life’s Simple 7 ideal health behaviours and factors, as outlined by the American Heart Association: body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose and total cholesterol.

The study compared the cardiovascular health scores of pet owners overall to those who did not own pets. Then it compared dog owners to other pet owners and those who did not own pets.

“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” says Dr Andrea Maugeri, a researcher with the International Clinical Research Centre at St Annes University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania in Catania, Italy. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”

The study demonstrates an association between dog ownership and heart health, which is in line with the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on the benefits of owning a dog in terms of physical activity, engagement and reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.

Maugeri says that the study findings support the idea that people could adopt, rescue or purchase a pet as a potential strategy to improve their cardiovascular health as long as pet ownership led them to a more physically active lifestyle.

Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, chair of the division of preventive cardiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, says that having a dog may prompt owners to go out, move around and play with their dog regularly. Owning a dog also has been linked to better mental health in other studies and less perception of social isolation – both risk factors for heart attacks. Lopez-Jimenez is a senior investigator of this study.

The study was performed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, the International Clinic Research Centre at St Anne’s University Hospital, and the University of Catania. This research was supported by the National Programme of Sustainability and the European Regional Development Fund.

Objective: To investigate the association of pet ownership, and specifically dog ownership, with cardiovascular diseases (CVD) risk factors and cardiovascular health (CVH) in the Kardiovize Brno 2030 study, a randomly selected prospective cohort in Central Europe.
Patients and Methods: We included 1769 subjects (aged from 25 to 64 years; 44.3% males) with no history of CVD who were recruited from January 1, 2013, to December 19, 2014. We compared sociodemographic characteristics, CVD risk factors, CVH metrics (ie, body mass index, healthy diet, physical activity level, smoking status, blood pressure, fasting glucose, and total cholesterol), and score between pet owners and non-pet owners or dog owners and several other subgroups.
Results: Approximately 42% of subjects owned any type of pet: 24.3% owned a dog and 17.9% owned another animal. Pet owners, and specifically dog owners, were more likely to report physical activity, diet, and blood glucose at ideal level, and smoking at poor level, which resulted in higher CVH score than non-pet owners (median, 10; interquartile range = 3 vs median, 9; interquartile range = 3; P=0.006). Compared with owners of other pets, dog owners were more likely to report physical activity and diet at ideal level. The comparison of dog owners with non-dog owners yielded similar results. After adjustment for covariates, dog owners exhibited higher CVH scores than non-pet owners (β=0.342; SE=0.122; P=0.005), other pet-owners (β=0.309; SE=0.151; P=0.041), and non-dog owners (β=0.341; SE=0.117; P=0.004).
Conclusion: Except for smoking, dog owners were more likely to achieve recommended level of behavioral CVH metrics (physical activity and diet) than non-dog owners, which translated into better CVH.

Andrea Maugeri, Jose R Medina-Inojosa, Sarka Kunzova, Martina Barchitta, Antonella Agodi, Manlio Vinciguerra, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez

Mayo Clinic material
Mayo Clinic Proceedings abstract

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