Dog ownership linked to lower risk of heart disease

Want to live longer? Get a dog	 	 	 			White golden retriever puppy via ThinkStock

Dog owners have a low risk of developing cardiovascular diseases that further enables them to reduce the risk of mortality, a new research confirmed.

"Stress relief through companionship has an inherent benefit to people's overall health, so it is not surprising that dog owners display a lower risk of heart disease", said Dr. Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The biggest beneficiaries are single people. While people who live alone are not necessarily lonely, many in the Swedish study seemed to benefit disproportionately from having a dog around. "In individuals without CVD, dog ownership has been reported as inversely associated with the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, such as dyslipidemia, hypertension and diabetes, but other studies found absent or inconclusive associations".

The findings, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, are based on data from more than 3.4 million Swedes between the ages of 40 and 80.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease", said senior author Tove Fall, an associate professor at Uppsala University.

The risk of death fell by 11 percent in households with multiple people.




Dog owners in multi-person households, on the other hand, had an 11 percent lower of death and their chances of a cardiovascular-related death were 15 percent lower.

And how do dogs go about keeping one heart-healthy? "Our observational study can not provide evidence for a causal effect of dog ownership on cardiovascular disease or mortality", they write.

One factor behind this may be because dogs bring dirt into homes and they lick you, which could impact your microbiome - the bacteria that live in your gut - and thus your health.

"Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalizable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership". We've known for a while that you live longer when you live with someone else, but the added benefit of having a dog is that they need to get outside and go for walks, which forces us to get up and take them no matter how exhausted we are or what the weather is like.

Bond commented that owners of hunting breeds may be getting more exercise because these dogs are more active as opposed to small dogs who do not require as much exercise.

Even in such cases, the authors wrote, dog ownership has consistently been linked to improved survival in coronary artery disease patients. "In warmer climates, they could keep them in the yard and won't have to actively take them for a walk", said Fall. "More studies should be obtained in the United States", said Bond.

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