Does Pet Ownership Promote Heart Health?

DogHealthBy Lynne T. Braun, PhD, CNP

Many people who own pets treat them like family members. Pets are thought to provide joy, comfort and stress relief, alleviate sadness, and give their owners unconditional love. Some hospitals, including Rush University Medical Centerallow family pets to visit their hospitalized owners if certain requirements are met.

Teams of specially trained “comfort dogs” visited and provided comfort to the survivors of the Oklahoma tornadoes, Boston marathon bombings and Sandy Hill school shootings. But what do we know about pets and the health of their owners? In particular, does pet ownership promote heart health?

The answer is probably yes. The American Heart Association recently published a scientific statement on pet ownership and risk for cardiovascular disease. This statement reviewed the results of research on pet ownership and high blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, obesity and even survival. Although some studies are conflicting, most show the following:

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