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  • Man's Best Friend: Dog Ownership Makes You Live Longer

Man's Best Friend: Dog Ownership Makes You Live Longer

Nov 17 2019 Read 303 Times

A new study from the American Heart Association has canine lovers rejoicing, with findings suggesting dog ownership is associated with lower risk of early death and healthier cardiovascular outcomes, especially among survivors of heart attacks and strokes.

The findings were published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes and claim that heart attack survivors who live alone and own dogs enjoy a 33% lower risk of early death than their pet-free counterparts. The results were similar for stroke survivors living alone, with the study suggesting a 27% reduced risk of early death. Overall, the study found dog ownership correlates with a 24% reduced risk of mortality by any cause.

"The findings in these two well-done studies and analyses build upon prior studies and the conclusions of the 2013 AHA Scientific Statement 'Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk' that dog ownership is associated with reductions in factors that contribute to cardiac risk and to cardiovascular events," explains Dr. Glenn N. Levine, Master Clinician and Professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

Dogs help to ease social isolation and boost physical activity

The study builds on previous research suggesting that living alone can result in social isolation and a decrease in physical activity, a combination that can be fatal for heart attack and stroke survivors. Using health data from the Swedish National Patient Register, Dr. Levine and his team sought to investigate how dog ownership affects health outcomes for heart attack or ischemic stroke survivors aged between 40 and 85. The results were telling and suggest that there is a positive correlation with dog ownership and life expectancy following after a cardiovascular event or stroke.

"Further, these two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality," adds Dr. Levine. "While these non-randomized studies cannot 'prove' that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this."

Experts confirm "having a dog is associated with longer life"

Unlike previous small-scale studies, the American Heart Association examined records from hundreds of thousands of patients. Almost 182,000 were heart attack survivors, with 6% owning dogs. Around 155,000 patients had experienced an ischemic stroke, with roughly 5% owning dogs. After cross referencing the data, the team found that reduced depression and loneliness, coupled with an increase in physical activity, means that dog ownership has an undeniably positive impact on life expectancy of heart attack and stroke survivors.

"We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death, says Tove Fall, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden. "Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people. Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health."

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