by Robert Hudson
A group of Oregon State University graduate students recently found dog owners have significantly lower levels of systolic blood pressure than people who don’t own dogs.
In addition, dog owners are more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity per day through walking their dog and taking their dog to parks. The American Heart Association says owning a dog is likely associated with lower heart disease risk, partially because dog owners are 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity each day. Many people who own dogs take them on walks, go to the park, or go to dog parks. These activities provide exercise for both the owner and dog.
In addition to companionship, dogs can encourage laughter, physical activity, and other benefits effective in decreasing stress levels. Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences explained why owning dogs may be related to decreased stress levels. “The American Heart Association has said that owning pets can have a positive effect on how people react to stress,” she said. “Chronic stress has not been shown to directly increase risk factors associated with heart disease, but it can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that are associated with high blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease.”