Looking to lead a stronger, healthier life?
Sign up for our Wellness Wire newsletter for all sorts of nutrition, fitness, and wellness wisdom.

Now we’re in this together.
Thanks for subscribing and having us along on your health and wellness journey.

See all Healthline's newsletters »
Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

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.

  • 1

Tags: Exercise , Heart Attack , Stress and the Heart

Was this article helpful? Yes No

More Articles from Sarah


About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.