Puppy Love: Owning a Dog Linked to Better Heart Health

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By Samantha Mathewson

Good news for dog owners: Man’s best friend may help lower a person’s risk of heart disease, a new study from Sweden finds.

In the study, the researchers looked at the relationship between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. The results suggest that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease because the four-legged friends provide social support and boost their owners’ physical activity.

Owning a pet dog may be particularly beneficial for people who live alone, the study found.

“A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household,” lead study author Mwenya Mubanga, a doctoral student in the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden, said in a statement.
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28 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – In the study, the researchers looked at the relationship between dog ownership and cardiovascular health.
    The results suggest that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease because the four-legged friends provide social support and boost their owners’ physical activity.

    When my son is on holiday, and his hound is on holiday staying with me, it “boosts my physical activity” by about one or two miles a day!

  2. The results suggest that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease because the four-legged friends provide social support and boost their owners’ physical activity.

    Tell me if my logic is amiss; but this seems highly unscientific and outright stupid to me. Physical activity is what is good for the heart; not owning a dog. Anything that gets you to move is good in that sense. So having shoes can be said to promote heart health – or having friends to visit or places to go, things to do. As for support or stress reduction, sitting and watching a show on TV or listening to music or reading a book or meditating, etc., etc., can probably reduce one’s chances of developing heart trouble too; so, according to the logic of this study, the article might have been called: “Owning books linked to better heart health.” Completely ridiculous! Having a dog is just one thing out of an infinite number of things that the manipulative and wasteful study chooses to arbitrarily focus on. It is physical activity and stress reduction that has been shown to lower one’s chances of getting sick, not owning dogs per se! You can get a dog walker, right? So the dog walker will get healthy, not you the owner. The title should be: “Exercise and stress reduction promotes heart health. Find things to do that get you to move and find ways to feel less anxious.”

  3. Dan #2
    Nov 26, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    As for support or stress reduction, sitting and watching a show on TV or listening to music or reading a book or meditating, etc., etc., can probably reduce one’s chances of developing heart trouble too;

    These definitely involve less physical exercise than dog-walking.

    Another interesting feature of dog-walking, is that dogs are sociable pack animals, and when taken to open spaces for a run off the lead, will “introduce” their owners to other dog owners who are exercising their dogs.
    This means that dog owners who use regular areas for walks, build up social acquaintances with other dog-walkers, and chat about dogs etc. while the dogs chase each other around the field, woodland, or beach!

    City dwellers who live in crowded areas probably are likely to be more restricted in this regard.

  4. These definitely involve less physical exercise than dog-walking.

    Alan, read me more carefully, please. I was addressing two points and I separated them: physical exercise and stress reduction. The article addressed both and so did I – separately.

    Owning a dog is fine, but so are a lot of things. You can join a book club too and walk there. Singling out dog ownership as a topic and as a way to promote heart health is arbitrary and manipulative. That’s my point in a nutshell.

  5. Dan #4
    Nov 26, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Owning a dog is fine, but so are a lot of things. You can join a book club too and walk there.

    I think the point about dogs is that they have to walked every day! – Book clubs are probably once a week or once a fortnight!

  6. Dan, a book cannot smile at you. A book cannot growl at intruders. A book cannot eat your Subway sandwich while you aren’t looking………….wait……..I’m still pissed about that.

  7. Cats are terrible. They’re awful. I only ever had one great cat. He was the exception. He was wonderful, he was perfect. Then after 15 years he just disappeared one day. That was just like him too.

    But all other cats are trash, awful, terrible things, unworthy of our attention…

  8. Sean. After fifteen years he was old and probably sick. Sometime they will hunker down in the bushes and die there quietly.
    Love every cat I’ve had.

  9. Sean_W #9
    Nov 27, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Cats are terrible. They’re awful. I only ever had one great cat. He was the exception. He was wonderful, he was perfect.

    Fortunately cats are territorial, and a healthy cat in an established home, will chase off intruding stray cats.

    Like dogs, cats are as good as the training they are given, so training your own competently from kittenhood, makes for a more harmonious relationship, than taking in strays.
    Indeed, acquiring a kitten from a family with a well trained mother cat, will provide a kitten which has already been substantially house-trained by its mother. – A much better option than acquiring one which has suffered isolation and the traumas of the pet trade!

    Many problems are caused by the lack of available traffic-free out-door space, and pets encroaching on neighbours’ gardens.
    This is often a feature of modern housing.

    Cats are also good for developing social interactions with children, and mutual respect between intelligent living creatures.

    Our last cat had a selection of sunny corners for basking around the garden, with each one chosen according to the sunshine and shelter it received at that time of day.

    Then after 15 years he just disappeared one day.

    15 is the average life expectancy for domesticated members of the cat family. (8 years in the wild).

    Our last cat lasted to the grand old age of 19, – but only with the help of medication from the vet in her old age!

  10. Alan #3

    City dwellers who live in crowded areas probably are likely to be more
    restricted in this regard.

    Yes, we have dog parks. The advantage is the concentration of dog owners, so the camaraderie is immediate and guaranteed.

    Lately I’ve been walking my 7-month-old Rottweiler, and I have to say puppies are like magnets. Almost every walk attracts at least one person who wants to pet him, and he loves the attention. I’ve even had young children knock on my door and ask to pet him. Rotties are naturally alpha dogs, so I worry he’ll get mean. But my vet told me to let him socialize as much as possible and he’ll be OK. So far, it’s working out pretty well.

  11. Vicki #12
    Nov 27, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Yes, we have dog parks. The advantage is the concentration of dog owners, so the camaraderie is immediate and guaranteed.

    We have a 15 acre woodland park about a mile from my home, but it also has adjacent farmland, and long distance country footpaths and bridleways.

    My son has a large sandy beach within a half mile of his home.

    His dog (#1) is a Lurcher – and is usually the fastest dog in any mixed group, but he keeps picking up injuries by crashing into things at speed!

    He is very good natured, and is much loved by my granddaughter and her visiting cousins, but runs up to me enthusiastically like a shot, whenever I appear wearing a coat, as he associates me with walks!

  12. I think the point about dogs is that they have to walked every day! – Book clubs are probably once a week or once a fortnight!

    Alan, I am surprised that a man as erudite as you has such a hard time getting me sometimes. Am I that subtle? Maybe so.

    Book club schmook club. My point was simply this: unscientific article designed to attract readers. Any number of things can get you to exercise more, and on a regular basis. And walking a dog is not that much exercise. Owning a dog may improve your health and social life a little if you are hopelessly sedentary; but so can a million things. Here’s a new study: It shows that people that have nice clothes are more likely to go outdoors than people who have ugly clothes. So buy nice clothes. Walking around, as opposed to staying inside with the blinds drawn, is good for the heart. Here’s another: It shows that people who have no elevator and have to walk three or more flights of stairs each day liver longer. So don’t move into a doorman building; move into a walk-up; it just might save your life. One more: Sedentary people who do not cook but eat out twice a day or more are less likely to croak; that is because they are exercising as they walk to their favorite diner or restaurant. People who cook shop once or twice a week. Not enough exercise. So don’t cook.

    Capiche?

  13. Dan #14
    Nov 28, 2017 at 2:04 am

    Book club schmook club. My point was simply this: unscientific article designed to attract readers.

    I’m not sure what basis you use for this claim?

    Any number of things can get you to exercise more, and on a regular basis.

    True! – But that does not invalidate the benefits of exercise anyone of them can give!

    And walking a dog is not that much exercise.

    That depends on the breed! A lazy pooch – not so much!
    A foxhound which needs 30 or 40 mile runs – rather more!

    I have to wonder if you have ever kept an energetic type of pet!

    Owning a dog may improve your health and social life a little if you are hopelessly sedentary;

    I think that is the point! The list of sedentary solitary activities you give makes the point:-

    @2 – Tell me if my logic is amiss; . . . . As for support or stress reduction, sitting and watching a show on TV or listening to music or reading a book or meditating, etc., etc., can probably reduce one’s chances of developing heart trouble too;

    These are relaxing, but they lack an exercise and socially interactive content! They may be helpful in conjunction with and exercise regime.

    so, according to the logic of this study, the article might have been called: “Owning books linked to better heart health.” Completely ridiculous!

    No! Definitely a strawman claim! Books offer no exercise and minimal social contact. Even when there is no meeting with other dog owners, dogs are constantly interacting socially with their owners.

    but so can a million things.

    . . . . Which provide alternative options, which may or may not be comparable or as effective.

    Here’s another: It shows that people who have no elevator and have to walk three or more flights of stairs each day liver longer.

    I have stairs to upstairs bedrooms, and a ladder to the attic. I also have outdoor steps DOWN the terraces of my garden!

    One more: Sedentary people who do not cook but eat out twice a day or more are less likely to croak;

    Except that both restaurant and fast food tend to be focussed on taste rather than balance, so are usually fattening.

    that is because they are exercising as they walk to their favorite diner or restaurant.

    Unless less it is at a distance and they use mechanised transport.

    People who cook, shop once or twice a week. Not enough exercise. So don’t cook.

    City dwellers who only use supermarkets may do this, but some of us like food – especially fruit and vegetables – fresh, so use local convenience stores or specialist shops.

    In our house, apart from the physical activity of preparing food, much of it (in season) is harvested fresh from the garden. – Digging up:- leeks, onions, parsnips, beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes, swedes, etc, – picking; mint, chives, parsley, lettuce, tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, black currants, grapes, – and going up ladders to pick apples and plums.

    Then there is the digging, hedge cutting, lawn mowing, and tree/bush pruning, associated with cultivation.

    All activities which are squeezed out of high-rise city life!

    Oh! . . . . and looking out of the window as I type this, I may also be doing the first snow clearing later today! 🙂

  14. Very amusing. Thank you.

    Uh…Again, anything that gets you out the door and moving is healthy. Okay? And of course going out to buy cigarettes does not count.

  15. For me a decent walk is 2 to 8 miles and living in the northern suburbs of London on the meridian where the green and watery spike comes in along the Lee Valley is perfect. Lee Valley Park covers 40 square km and the adjacent Epping Forest covers 20 square km. Add a car to take you to a new walk start place and there are more than 365 different walks to be had. New addition, opening up the old reservoir lakes in the Walthamstow Wetlands, is a stunning success. 2 square km of great views and wildlife, flying insect too. (I needed my spare battery for the camera.)

    I think having a fellow sufferer as a pooch would give me the guilty push to always make that walk is what I need next. I’ve missed having dogs and my neighbours’ cats, frequent visitors, take care of any need to be condescended to. (Me-me, the Abyssinian, is good for a ten minute chat, though.)

    There is a plan afoot to make London a National Park. I think it could really work. Dog walkers and leisure cyclists know it to be one already.

  16. dogs (like golf) spoil a good walk
    it’s nice to meet well-behaved dogs on a walk
    and chat with owners
    but that’s as far as this walker endorses the dog
    solvitur ambulando
    (sine canis)

  17. Attempting to solve problems is a good walk spoiled, despite Darwin swearing by it.

    For me the walk must distract from the actual problem to leave the subconscious to do its thing.

    Sometimes you just need to turn it off and on again.

  18. That’s very interesting, Phil. I think about these things in the same way. I would add this: you have to try very hard to solve the problem first. Then you start the walk with the notion that there is a problem that you want solved. Then you put the problem aside as best you can, allow it to move away from the foreground. The conscious desire not to think about the problem helps the unconscious. At least that’s been my experience.

    Sleep can do the same thing as the walk, and so can rest in any form. But you have to put in a lot of work in first in order to let the unconscious come to your aid in this way.

  19. Absolutely, Dan.

    Some of all that front loading work can be quite random and intuitive in my experience. Working in one area, I would often sample trade papers from quite other areas. Working on electrical power microgrids, I read about railways, woolen mills, computer motherboards, ocean liners, white goods. Inventing is all about cross-fertilisation and metaphorical re-framing. Having a lot of spurious material to hand even if you could only hold it for a week or two before fading, created richer inspirational moments.

    Have the problem clear in your mind in its largest viewable context, load up with as much intuitively selected accounts from other fields and then chill. Let your subconscious run through all the permutations whilst you are off throwing sticks and taking pix.

    It is still working for me even now. Little bits of that random shit stick and maybe there is a bit more under the conscious surface. It makes me the ultimate pub bore. “Not a lot of people now this but narwhal steaks, cubed and cooked in stout and served on twisted metal skewers, was once considered a delicacy in Cleethorpes. No? I thought you didn’t.” Or was it mushrooms?

  20. phil rimmer #22
    Nov 28, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Some of all that front loading work can be quite random and intuitive in my experience. Working in one area, I would often sample trade papers from quite other areas.
    Working on electrical power microgrids, I read about railways, woollen mills, computer motherboards, ocean liners, white goods.
    Inventing is all about cross-fertilisation and metaphorical re-framing.

    You might remember this link from a 2013 discussion!

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/01/21/slime-mould-attacks-simulates-tokyo-rail-network/#.Wh3iB7gR9Vl

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/01/21/slime-mould-attacks-simulates-tokyo-rail-network/#.Wh3iB7gR9Vl

    In a Japanese laboratory, a group of scientists is encouraging a rapidly expanding amoeba-like blob to consume Tokyo. Thankfully, the blob in question is a “slime mould” just around 20cm wide, and “Tokyo” is represented by a series of oat flakes dotted about a large plastic dish. It’s all part of a study on better network design through biological principles. Despite growing of its own accord with no plan in mind, the mould has rapidly produced a web of slimy tubes that look a lot like Tokyo’s actual railway network.

    The point of this simulation isn’t to reconstruct the monster attacks of popular culture, but to find ways of improving transport networks, by recruiting nature as a town planner. Human societies depend on good transport networks for ferrying people, resources and information from place to place, but setting up such networks isn’t easy. They have to be efficient, cost-effective and resistant to interruptions or failure. The last criterion is particularly challenging as the British public transport system attests to, every time a leaf or snowflake lands on a road or railway.

    Living thing also rely on transport networks, from the protein tracks that run through all of our cells to the gangways patrolled by ant colonies. Like man-made networks, these biological ones face the same balancing act of efficiency and resilience, but unlike man-made networks, they have been optimised through millions of years of evolution. Their strategies have to work – if our networks crash, the penalties are power outages or traffic jams; if theirs crash, the penalty is death.

  21. This will work if the underlying maths of the biology is close to that required by a transport system. Big ifs.

    In reality you might do this if you didn’t know the precise maths of the slime mould, and wished to discover the varieties of its parameters, their relationships and coefficients.

    Certainly you might imagine this in an inspired moment to discover new potential parameters to put into your computer simulation of the transport system.

    No transport system would be built on the blind say so of a slime mould. But slime moulds may be inspirational goads to more detailed modelling.

  22. phil rimmer #20
    solvitur ambulando doesn’t have to mean
    you are consciously attempting to solve problems
    daily walking in natural setting unintentionally solves so many things
    from personal issues to climate health
    get out of that litter phil

  23. q.

    Then we are in perfect agreement… except for me throwing sticks and taking pix are both good additions to a good walk. This week by the seaside running my daughter’s two dogs has been a delight. They run and run and I have a new design for a SAD lamp.

    Incidentally I discover my worsening aerobic fitness is not incipient old age but the NxOy pollutants in London air. The seaside restores fully my ability to walk indefinitely. Burnin stuff is bad news.

  24. phil rimmer #26
    Dec 4, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Incidentally I discover my worsening aerobic fitness is not incipient old age but the NxOy pollutants in London air. The seaside restores fully my ability to walk indefinitely. Burnin stuff is bad news.

    You need to track this development Phil!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42196752

    New Sentinel satellite tracks dirty air

    The spacecraft was designed to make daily global maps of the gases and particles that pollute the air.

    The first sample images released by mission scientists show plumes of nitrogen dioxide flowing away from power plants and traffic-choked cities.

  25. Oh, that’s going to be really good when it goes live, Alan.

    With the help of epidemiology some good estimates of health cost for Germany and Italy.

    I suspect its Nitric Oxide I’m suffering from in London when walking quickly, a very sharp upper lung pain totally absent on the coast. (We had a lot of rather dangerous experimentation in the chem lab at school. An otherwise excellent teacher, Isiah (one Isiah than the other) with a tendency to speak French at moments of heightened tension. Lesson’s rather resembled testing at Porton Down. I’m pretty good at identifying all the dangerous gasses and fumes.)

    Nitric oxide is pretty topical, quickly converted to nitrogen dioxide by ozone. The canyons of city streets carry the peak doses.

    I wonder what the satellite resolution is?

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