Three ways owning a dog could be great for your heart

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Walking is Australia’s most popular form of physical activity - you can do it anywhere, it doesn’t require any special equipment, it’s low impact, and it is easy to incorporate into your routine.  

Evidence shows walking at a brisk pace each day can help to: 

  • Lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes by 30-40% 
  • Reduce your blood pressure 
  • Manage problems associated with high levels of cholesterol 
  • Improve mental health

So, what’s stopping you? If you’re looking to walk more often, it might be time to adopt a dog! Having a dog can be a whole lot of fun and they could be good for your heart. What’s not to love?  

Dogs can help get you walking  

Dogs love to walk every day. And we know walking is excellent for your heart health!  

Our pets are treasured members of the family and they love routine. This makes them excellent personal trainers and ideal companions when you want to boost your heart health. 

Dogs are wonderful company, and they can also help us to connect with others. Having a chat with other dog owners in the park or the street can reduce social isolation by growing your circle of friends.

Dogs can help improve your mental health

Did you know that people who experience depression, are socially isolated, or do not have good social support have a higher chance of developing heart disease? 

Depression can also be common in patients with heart disease.   

The Heart Foundation resource Depression in patients with coronary heart disease (PDF) shows 15% percent of patients experiencing heart attack or heart surgery (bypass) will have a major depressive disorder. When you also consider milder forms of depression, this figure increases to 40%.  Your close friends and family will be an important support at this time, but pets may also have a role to play - that’s where dogs come in. 

If you’re concerned about your mental health, it is important to speak with your doctor and get help with managing emotional stress.  

Dogs can help reduce stress and blood pressure 

Did you know ongoing stress can increase your risk of developing heart disease? 

Studies have shown that walking with your dog can have a calming effect and can help reduce the physical signs of stress, including lowering your blood pressure.  

A 2017 study of more than three million people in Sweden, aged between 40 and 80, showed that owning a dog could be linked to a lower risk of developing heart disease. The study tracked the health of dog owners for 12 years and found that, among people who lived alone, having a dog may decrease their risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36%. The chances of having a heart attack were 11% lower.  

It’s important to note the limitations of this study. The researchers could not identify how or why the ownership of a dog led to positive health outcomes and could not rule out other factors that may have contributed to the study’s findings.  

Get active 

There can be many contributing factors to developing heart disease. To find out more about how your lifestyle could be impacting on your health, the Heart Foundation recommends you speak with your doctor about having a heart health check, especially if you’re over 45 years old (35 years and older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). 

Would you and your pooch like to get out more? Find out how you can join one of our dog-friendly Heart Foundation Walking groups