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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 03/14/2011

Good news about coffee and dogs

As if coffee and dogs weren’t already two of my favorite things in the world, along come a couple of studies that make me love them both all the more.

One, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, finds that women who drink less than a cup of coffee per day are at increased risk of stroke; read another way, the study found that women who drink a cup of coffee or more daily have as much as a 25 percent lower risk of stroke than those who consume less.

The other, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, shows that people who own — and walk — dogs are far more likely than others to tally 150 minutes or more of leisure-time physical activity per week.

In the coffee study, nearly 35,000 Swedish women ages 49 to 83 were tracked for about 10 years. During that time, 1,680 strokes occurred among them. But the coffee drinkers were far less likely to suffer stroke (though no association was found between coffee consumption and one form of stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage). The study did not distinguish between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, as hardly anyone in Sweden drinks decaf, the study notes.

The dog study looked at data for 5,902 people in the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey. They found that people who owned and walked their dogs were more than a third more likely to meet the federally recommended 150 minutes of leisure-time physical activity per week. Dog owners who walked their dogs walked more than an hour longer per week than dog owners who didn’t walk their dogs.

And it wasn’t just the time spent walking dogs that added up: Dog walkers tended to be more physically active in general than non-dog-owners or those who didn’t walk their pooches.

The dog study would be better news for me personally if my own rotten terrier were better at taking walks. Kitty is so rowdy, we tend to leave her at home, even when we accompany friends as they walk their dogs. (Don’t worry about Kitty, though: She has full access to our large, fenced back yard.) Note to self: Make sure the next dog’s a walker.

Apparently I’m not alone in owning but not walking a dog: The study found that more than a third of the dogs weren’t regularly walked, and among those who were, only 27 percent were walked for 150 minutes a week or more.

Those findings lead to one of the researchers’ major conclusions: The authors suggest that if some practical intervention could be devised to encourage dog owners to become dog walkers, great inroads against obesity might be made. Beyond that, the authors suggest, perhaps some means of encouraging dog ownership — among those whose lives could reasonably and responsibly accommodate such a pet — could get more people up and walking, too.

For now, I may not be big on walking my dog, but I sure am big on drinking coffee. I think I’ll pour another cup right now. For my cardiovascular system, of course.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 03/14/2011

 
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