Friday, May 10, 2013

Pet Ownership and Heart Disease Data: American Heart Association

The American Heart Association has released a study which suggest that owning a pet, and specifically owning a dog, may help reduce your likelihood of having heart disease.

“Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with a decreased risk of heart disease” said Glenn N. Levine, M.D., professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and chair of the committee that wrote the statement after reviewing previous studies of the influence of pets.

“In essence, data suggest that there probably is an association between pet ownership and decreased cardiovascular risk,” Levine said. “What’s less clear is whether the act of adopting or acquiring a pet could lead to a reduction in cardiovascular risk in those with pre-existing disease. Further research, including better quality studies, is needed to more definitively answer this question.”

The current research suggests that:
  • Pet ownership is probably associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients. But the studies aren’t definitive and do not necessarily prove that owning a pet directly causes a reduction in heart disease risk. “It may be simply that healthier people are the ones that have pets, not that having a pet actually leads to or causes reduction in cardiovascular risk,” Levine said.
  • Dog ownership in particular may help reduce cardiovascular risk. People with dogs may engage in more physical activity because they walk them. In a study of more than 5,200 adults, dog owners engaged in more walking and physical activity than non-dog owners, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity. 
  • Owning pets may be associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a lower incidence of obesity.
  • Pets can have a positive effect on the body’s reactions to stress
Taking a look at local data on heart disease related deaths over the last 5 years from the NYS Department of Health, it does seem to show some reduction in the numbers and percent of deaths due to heart related diseases in our region.

At the same time, we find this data from a previous posts about dog licenses issued in Oneida County . It shows an increase in the number of dogs licensed in the last five years.

Click to Enlarge
So there's been some fluctuation in deaths due to heart disease, and in increase in dogs licensed in the County over the last five years. Coincidence? I'll leave that for the cat owners to argue about !