The study also found that dogs boost their owners' mental health and spirits too!

By Georgia Slater
August 26, 2019

Dogs can be more than just a cuddly companion — they can be a health benefit as well, a Mayo Clinic study recently found.

When they boost your mood, your dog is boosting your heart health too, Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist reported.

“What we found was that those who own a pet, particularly a dog, were healthier from the cardiovascular standpoint,” he said after concluding a study which examined the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health.

Related: Science Says Petting Your Cat or Dog Can Relieve Stress in Mere Minutes

The study collected information on 1,769 people, none of whom had a history of heart disease, living in Brno, Czech Republic. Of the subjects, 42 percent of them owned a pet, 24 percent of which owned dogs.

Lopez-Jimenez found that those with dogs are more likely to get regular exercise, eat healthier and have better sugar levels in their blood than those who did not own a dog.

He added that his own dog, Choco, backed up this research .

“He will be nagging me until we go out — maybe for a short walk, maybe throwing him balls. But what I realize is that anything that I do with my dog will imply physical activity,” Dr. Lopez-Jimenez said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise greatly contributes to improving one’s heart health because it helps you maintain a healthy weight and glucose levels. When a dog inadvertently gets his or her owner to exercise, they in turn are improving the owner’s cardiovascular health.

Related: Want to Protect Your Kids from Allergies? Study Says Get a Dog ... or Two

The study additionally found that along with improving physical health, dogs also boosted their owners’ mental health and spirits.

“Dogs almost universally will have those traits of loyalty, love, cheerful attitude, living in the moment, and expressing affection,” Dr. Lopez-Jimenez said, adding that dogs allow people to feel less lonely, which could decrease the risk of a heart attack.

Dr. Andrea Maugeri, a researcher with the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the University of Catania in Catania, Italy, shared that people can adopt, rescue or buy a pet as a way to improve their heart health, as long they participate in pet ownership activities like walking.

With today being National Dog Day, it might be the perfect time to begin your heart-healthy journey!

This story originally appeared on PEOPLE.com.

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