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Paw-sitively Heartwarming

Maybe you remember the day you met that special someone. Not a boyfriend or girlfriend, but that adorable furry friend who curls up at your feet nightly. About 68% of American households own pets, but did you know that it’s paw-sible your favorite animal has done more than just warm your heart? You might have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease because you are a pet owner.

A significant body of research shows that owning a cat or a dog may have heart health benefits. The importance of heart health benefits cannot be overstated considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Many heart disease risk factors are preventable with behavioral modification, but does owning a pet change our habits? Or what is it about keeping company with a cuddly animal that affects our health?


Having high blood pressure and heart rate are risk factors for heart disease, but recent research shows owning pets might positively impact both! In one study, researchers found pet owners had significantly lower resting baseline heart rates and blood pressure than non-pet owners.  Studies also indicated that people who own pets have smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure in response to stress. They even have a faster recovery to baseline blood pressure and heart rate after experiencing a stressful event. And when a pet was present during stress, reactivity and recovery to stress was the lowest. In other words, your pets are likely more than just a comfort. They are legitimately changing how your body handles stress.


Getting the recommended amount of exercise each week also lowers your risk of heart disease. And because dogs love a good walk around the block, dog owners are more likely than non-dog owners to get moving. But did you know that dogs often make their owners more social as well? Whether it’s getting to the dog park or meeting up with another dog owner, researchers in several studies saw that owning a dog had both physical activity benefits as well as social benefits.


Does this mean the doctor suggests buying yourself a puppy rather than candy for Valentine’s Day? Well, maybe, but the real key to heart health is not man’s best friend. A puppy might bring comfort and give you added reasons to stay healthy, but the key to heart health is really found in these top 5 preventative measures:

  1. Know your risk of heart disease
  2. Choose healthy food and drink
  3. Maintain a healthy weight
  4. Get regular exercise
  5. Don’t use tobacco products

Want to know more details about how to get heart-healthy? Check out our Resource page on heart health HERE!

Published February 11, 2024

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