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Dogs keep you active, improve vascular health

Published On: Aug 17 2012 10:48:41 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 08 2011 03:20:18 AM CDT
beagle, dog, closeup

iStock/NRedmond

(NewsUSA) - Man's best friend provides more than mere companionship. Dogs encourage humans to exercise daily -- come rain or shine.

"The need to take a daily walk provides dog owners with a great form of exercise," said Leila Mureebe, a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery. "Exercise is good for the body's blood supply, for maintaining proper body weight and for controlling blood pressure."

For persons with high blood pressure -- and that's one in three Americans over age 20, according to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report -- Fido's calming effect can be a life saver.

Studies have disclosed that petting a dog reduces blood pressure and heart rate. This stress buster provides positive health benefits for the owners of 77.5 million dogs that reside in 39 percent of households, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

High blood pressure and stress contribute to the fourth leading cause of death in America: stroke. The National Vital Statistics Report indicated that 137,000 Americans died of stroke in 2010. The American Stroke Association estimated that Americans spent $73.7 billion for stroke-related medical costs and disability in 2010.

"Every 40 seconds, an American suffers a stroke," said Dr. Mureebe. "Strokes occur suddenly and without warning. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke. Eighty percent of strokes are preventable through risk factor management."

Thirty minutes of daily exercise, not smoking, and proper nutrition are included in "risk factor management." A United States National Institutes of Health-funded study of 2,000 adults discovered that persons who regularly walked their dogs were more physically active and less likely to be obese than non-dog walkers.

"I've seen improvements in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes when patients enter into a routine of daily exercise, not smoking, and healthy eating," said Dr. Mureebe. "A brisk 30-minute walk with your dog is good for both of you."

For more information on vascular health, log onto: VascularWeb.org.

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