Your pooch can perk up your heart health

UCHealth's campaign for Heart Month features dogs “educating” their owners about how to lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease risk
February 1st, 2018
UCHealth's new campaign is a picture of a dog on a dog bet with a sign that says, "walking me got you another 2,760 steps today."
A new UCHealth campaign for Heart Month in February is designed to help improve heart health.

UCHealth is kicking off a new campaign for February’s Heart Month featuring dogs and how they help people live a healthy lifestyle – and the science proves it.

UCHealth analyzed existing research and publications about the benefits of having a furry friend and found lots of information to support it. For example, one study looked at the impact of pets on cardiovascular risk prevention, showing that having a dog:

·         Improves motivation for walking

·         Increases social support

·         Lowers blood pressure response to mental stress

picture of a dog with a sign that reads: Ruff day? I reduce stress. that's good for you heart.
Many of the dogs featured in the campaign volunteer at UCHealth hospitals to help improve a patient’s experience.

The average benefits of dog ownership appeared to be greater than that provided by a friend or spouse. It is hypothesized that some of the particular benefits of a pet reflect the lack of critical judgment by the pet. These associations were pronounced in patients who already have heart disease.

The research attributed part of this to the bonding hormone oxytocin that is released just by petting a dog.  That same surge of oxytocin also lowers blood pressure, wards off depression and boosts immunity. Dog owners tend to get about 23 minutes more of exercise from walking their dogs daily, and having a dog can reduce stress which is good for both kids’ and adults’ heart health.

two dogs with a sign that reads: These guys can reduce your risk of heart disease by 36 percent.
Dogs can motivate people to get up and go for a walk — one of the best ways to improve heart health.

Dr. Larry Allen, MD, a cardiologist and the associate director of clinical affairs at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, is an enthusiastic supporter of the message. “Diet, exercise, and social connections are some of the most common conversations that I have with heart patients. Pet ownership emphasizes all of these things. I have two dogs who happily greet me everytime I come home, who encourage me to get them outside, and who remind me to keep them on a regimented diet.”

“Every year, health care companies tell you to take care of your heart. Exercise more, eat better, stop smoking, stress less, and the list goes on,” said Manny Rodriguez, UCHealth chief marketing and experience officer. “You ignore it, because you’ve heard it all before. While each one of us is responsible for our heart health, dogs have been shown to be a major motivator when it comes to the cardiovascular health of their owners. Health facts, tips and information will be delivered from the perspective of man’s best friend to the benefit of dog owners and appreciators alike.”

For more tips and tricks to a healthy heart, please visit www.yourheartsbestfriend.com

About the author

Jessica Berry is a spokesperson for UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. She brings a rich mixture of military, political and journalistic experience to the position.

After graduating from the University of Colorado in 2000 with a degree in Communications, she traveled the country working in television news for stations in Texas, Montana, Alabama and Georgia.

Her travels brought her up close and personal with military issues post 9-11, and she found herself inspired to leave the world of television behind to enlist in the Air Force Reserve. She also worked for a state senator in Denver, a retired Air Force Colonel whose district covered a large portion of Colorado Springs, home to a sizeable military community. 

On July 2, 2008, Berry left the Air Force and was sworn-in as a Public Affairs Officer in the United States Navy Reserve. Ms. Berry has been a spokesperson for Nashville Navy Week, Denver Navy Week, L.A. Navy Week, Cincinnati Navy Week, Fargo Navy Week, Albuquerque Navy Week, Fleet Week New York, the USS New Mexico commissioning, and the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. In addition, she provided media training for more than 300 foreign and U.S. senior officers for the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.