Owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly one third, researchers told delegates of the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in New Orleans last week. The finding provoked a mixed reaction from heart experts and veterinarians.
The finding was the main result of a 10 year study of more than 4,000 Americans by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis. Executive director of the Institute, Dr Adnan Qureshi, who is also senior author of the study, was reported by US News & World Report to have said:
“For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks.”
Qureshi said having pets probably helped to relieve stress. The researchers said dogs probably had a similar effect, but there weren’t enough dog owners in the study to show this conclusively. Previous research has linked contact with pets to heart benefits, they said.
Qureshi and colleagues extracted data on 4,435 Americans aged 30 to 75, from the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study that took place from 1976 to 1980. 2,435 of the participants were current or former cat owners, while the remaining 2,000 had never had a cat.
Using the main outcome as death from all causes, including stroke and heart events, the researchers found that over a 10 year follow up period, cat owners showed a 30 per cent lower risk of death from heart attack compared to non cat owners.