Want to live longer? New study says dogs can help

Henrietta Strickland
October 9, 2019

The latest evaluation indicates people who suffered heart attacks and lived alone were 33 percent less likely to die if they owned a dog, while stroke victims were 27 percent less likely.

To investigate, Kramer's team searched through medical literature dating back to 1950 and found 10 studies of dog ownership and survival including a total of 3.8 million people.

But she warned that people should consider what's best for themselves and the dog before running to the adoption centre in the name of improving their heart health. Dog owners had a 65% reduced risk of death following a heart attack and a 31% reduced risk of death from heart disease, the researchers said.

The study participants were between the ages of 40 and 85 and had suffered heart attacks or strokes between 2001 and 2012.

Kramer, assistant professor at the University of Toronto in the division of endocrinology and metabolism, led a research team who reviewed almost 70 years of global data before coming up with their conclusion.

While it's hard to disentangle cause and effect without a randomized clinical trial, Kramer said there's research to indicate that man's best friend may be good for your health.

The results support a separate study carried out by Sweden's Uppsala University, which showed a 33 per cent reduced risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after being released from hospital if they owned a dog. The risk of death, regardless of cause, was 24 percent lower for dog owners than non-owners, the study found.

Both reports were published October 8 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. "As a pet owner myself, I can say that adopting Romeo (the author's miniature Schnauzer) has increased my steps and physical activity each day, and he has filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love".

Kramer undertook the research after noticing changes in her own behavior after she adopted her own dog, a miniature schnauzer named Romeo.

"At the time when I started work on this, I'd had my dog for a year and I noticed that I was walking way more", Kramer said. "There's a lot of evidence that people who have dogs walk way more".

"Having a dog was associated with increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports", said Dr.

"While these non-randomised studies can not "prove" that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this".

"Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people.

And we think those are important factors contributing to the overall health of the patient, particularly after a heart attack and stroke", said Dr. Sunil Advani, Indiana Heart Physicians.

In the study, nearly 182,000 people were recorded to have had a heart attack, with almost 6% being dog owners, and nearly 155,000 people were recorded to have had an ischemic stroke, with almost 5% being dog owners. Of the 10 studies reviewed, nine included comparison of all-cause mortality outcomes for dog owners and non-owners, and four compared cardiovascular outcomes for dog owners and non-owners.

"My own hypothesis is that the biggest driver of this is what dog ownership does for one's mental health", said Kazi, who wrote an accompanying editorial about the two new reports.

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