Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
A Dog is Your Heart’s Best Friend
A look at the limitless emotional and physical rewards of dog owners.
We are a nation of dog lovers. Over 78 million dogs live, work, and play with American families; sadly, the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that there are nearly as many homeless strays. Well over 2 million dogs are euthanized at animal shelters each year, often because there is no one available to adopt them.
Taking ownership of a dog is a huge commitment. It is an emotional, financial, and time-consuming investment, but as most dog owners will tell you, the rewards are limitless. In return for food, a safe and comfortable place to sleep, veterinary care, and access to the outdoors, a dog will love you without judgment, protect you without question, and greet you with a smile at the end of a hard day.
People who live with dogs tend to be more active and experience a greater sense of well-being. If you have a dog, you are much more likely to get out for walks, meet your neighbors, and establish a sense of community. Having a canine companion is associated with lower blood pressure and a less intense physical response to stress, especially when the dog is nearby. After a heart attack, dog owners are more likely to survive than those who are dog-less. I encourage my patients who are dog owners to establish a walking routine with their pets. Once your dog understands that a walk is part of the daily schedule, it won’t ever let you forget it.
What about feline fanciers? Although I’ve known a few exceptions, cats don’t usually want to be taken out for walks, and aren’t always interested in a game of fetch. Nevertheless, thanks to the power of companionship and love, cat owners are also less likely to die following a heart attack, and to report a greater sense of well-being.
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