This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 22, 2013.
Owning pets – especially dogs – is a good way to keep a healthy heart. That’s according to the American Heart Association, whose researchers point out that dog owners were likely to get the recommended amount of weekly exercise. But the scientists can’t say for sure which came first: the dog or the walk.
“It may be simply that healthier people are the ones that have pets, not that having a pet actually leads to or causes reduction in cardiovascular risk,” head researcher Dr. Glenn N. Levine said in an American Heart Association statement in this month’s journal Circulation.
Levine and his team reviewed several studies on the health of pet owners and found that they generally had lower levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and obesity, and often responded better to stress. One study of more than 5,200 adults found that dog owners were 54 percent more likely than non-dog owners to meet weekly recommended levels of exercise.
By the way, the CDC suggests 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running each week for most Americans.
“In essence, data suggest that there probably is an association between pet ownership and decreased cardiovascular risk,” Levine said in the statement. But he added that people shouldn’t adopt a pet solely to reduce the risk of heart disease.