Dog owners know that nothing warms the heart like furry dog cuddles or a happy wagging tail. But new research suggests that dogs not only warm the heart, they help protect it. A systematic review recently published in the American Heart Association’s publication “Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes” found that in several studies, dog ownership was associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes, and cardiovascular death in particular.
Jeffrey Moore, MD, with ProMedica Physicians Pediatric Cardiology, isn’t surprised by the findings. As a pediatric cardiologist and owner of two dogs, he sees the benefits that man’s best friend provides, particularly among older adults.
“When you get older and get simple viral illnesses, they become a big deal. Maintaining good health just in general is going to help you fight off those infections. If you’re in a better state of healthy, because you’ve led a healthy lifestyle for years up to that, you have more reserve to fight off those infections and you simply do better,” Dr. Moore explained.
Dogs can often help their owners stay active with regular walking, but in addition offer mental and emotional benefits that play a large role in overall health.
“The social angle is extremely important because companionship is so extremely important for general health and mental health,” he said. “When you look at older people who are more likely to be isolated and therefore more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and other things that can have long-term health consequences, dogs play a pivotal role because they are the perfect companion.”
Beyond companionship, trained therapy dogs can do amazing things like assist individuals having a seizure by flipping them over and helping to protect the individual’s head. At ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, therapy dogs visit the children to provide emotional support and brighten their day.
“It’s amazing how you see kids just get better regardless of what they’re in the hospital for when they have a better state of mind,” said Dr. Moore.
Does your dog keep you healthy? Let us know in the comments below!