Pets and Heart Health Management

SYoung Health Guide
  • Those that know me know that I am huge pet lover. My wife and I care for a large elderly Alaskan Malamute and two cats, a gray short-hair and an orange tabby long-hair. Our house would be empty without them as they bring us lots of joy. But in addition to bringing joy, unconditional love and generally great companionship (yes, when my wife is on business travel I don't dread going to an empty house), pets have proven to be key players in helping us manage our cardiovascular issues.


    A ten-year study of 4,300 Americans done by Dr. Adnan Qureshi, executive director of the Minnesota Stroke Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, found a 30 percent reduction in the risk of heart attacks when a feline is present in the home. Another study done in 2005 found that therapeutic dogs lowered anxiety, stress and heart and lung pressure among heart failure patients. Additionally, the effect of pet ownership/relationship has proven to help manage anything from depression to hypertension. As you can see, the correlation between pet ownership and heart health are pretty clear.

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    That brings me to my personal experience with dogs and hearth health management. Back in 2000 my wife and I decided to take in a nine-year-old Siberian Husky named Crystal. She was a true sweetheart who had not experienced a great life prior to coming into our family. However, one thing that Crystal enjoyed immensely was running (which included escaping from our yard many times, causing me a certain amount of stress). Every time we would walk her, she wanted to run and it was during one of our first few walks that I noticed that all was not right in my cardio world. Now mind you, I have been pretty much of an athlete all my life but because of various injuries my level of activity had somewhat dropped during those years. So all the running with Crystal not only pointed out how greatly out of shape I was, but that there were deeper issues with my health. It was around the time that I was "encouraged" by my wife to undergo tests that found the issue - my high level of cholesterol. While Crystal has since gone over the "Rainbow Bridge" she played a big part in saving my life and I will forever be grateful to her.


    Owning a pet is work and does involve a certain amount of costs, but the rewards will far outweigh any of the negatives. A dog can be a great motivator for those with high cholesterol and/or blood pressure who aren't inclined to exercise on a regular basis. A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for developing and worsening heart disease. But according to the American Heart Association, even moderate-intensity activities, like walking your dog for pleasure, can have long-term heart benefits if done daily. So, unless you are heading out the door on your way to your local shelter by now, you can always check out the ASPCA Web site. There are always many great pets looking for good loving home and ready to get you on your way to help you manage your heart health.

Published On: February 04, 2010