Here’s how owning a dog could make your heart healthier, according to science

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Owning a dog has many benefits.

Studies have shown that dogs can make owners feel less depressed by way of having a companion, which makes dog owners feel better and can even spark motivation, too. Dogs can also keep you safe when least expected. There are the hero-dog stories of fur balls saving families during the fire and dogs even chasing wound-be burglars in the middle of the night.

But dogs also provide another benefit — they can make your heart healthier, according to a new study.

By forcing owners to be more active, whether through daily walks or even a morning run, people who own pets, but dogs especially, are more likely to have better heart health, according to research published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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The study involved more than 1,500 people with no history of heart disease and participants provided details on their medical conditions including BMI, diet, physical activity levels, and others. Researchers then assigned each participant a score based on the American Heart Associations heart system test based on participants’ health conditions who did and did not own pets, while also looking specifically into dog owners vs. other pet owners.

“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet, and blood sugar at ideal level,” Andrea Maugeri, Ph.D., a researcher with the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania in Catania, Italy, said in a press release. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”

Maugeri suggested by adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet, potential pet owners not only improving the lives of animals but also could lead themselves to a healthier and more physically active lifestyle, especially since around 610,000 Americans die every year from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was conducted by Andrea Maugeri, PhD, researcher at the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania , Jose R. Medina-Inojosa, MD, Sarka Kunzova, MD, Martina Barchitta, PhD, Antonella Agodi, PhD, Manlio Vinciguerra, PhD, and Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, MSc, MBA, chair of the Division of Preventive Cardiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.