What’s one of the best things you can do for your heart? Get a dog. That’s the message from the American Heart Association. Consider the evidence:  

  • Dog owners exercise more than people who don’t have dogs. They’re over 50-percent more likely to get the recommended 30-minutes of daily exercise, which helps keep the heart in great shape.

  • Petting a dog can lower your blood pressure, and your dogs’ too. In fact, several studies show that pet owners in general have lower blood pressure than people without pets.

  • Pet owners also handle stress better, even when their pets aren’t around.

  • And there’s another factor to consider, all the dirt and dander a dog brings into your home, may have a positive effect on health. Because touching and breathing in dirt, pollen and other allergens reduces levels of a compound called C-reactive protein. That’s a compound that’s strongly linked to heart disease.

  • Plus, the American Heart Association says, if you’re responsible enough to care for a pet, you’re probably more conscious of taking care of yourself too.