Why dog owners seem to have healthy hearts

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Having a dog often means taking daily walks, a habit that helps stave off heart disease. But that might not be the only reason dog owners have healthier hearts, according to a new study.

The nearly 1,800 participants had no history of heart disease in 2013 when the study began. Researchers scored them based on the American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7" factors: body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood sugar, and total cholesterol. Then they compared the scores of people who owned any pet to those who did not own pets, as well as the scores of dog owners with owners of any pet or no pet.

People who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better eating habits, and healthy blood sugar levels. But the greatest benefits were for those who owned a dog. An editorial accompanying the study also cites the importance of the human-canine bond, which may have stress-relieving benefits that also enhance heart health. The study was published in the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes.

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