Dog at home means longer life, better heart health

Man's best friend is well known for devotion and loyalty but did you know that dogs can also extend our lifespans? A new meta-analysis of research on nearly 4 million people found dog owners were 24% less likely to die for any reason

Man's best friend is well known for devotion and loyalty but did you know that dogs can also extend our lifespans? A new meta-analysis of research on nearly 4 million people found dog owners were 24% less likely to die for any reason

Both published studies were observational, meaning that researchers cannot prove that dog ownership was the direct cause of the increased life expectancy or the better health outcomes after heart attack and stroke; only a randomized clinical trial could answer those questions.

A study by the American Heart Association, which collected data from 3.8 million people across the globe, found owning a dog can lead to better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone.

"The most interesting part of this study was that people who lived alone actually seem to get the greatest benefit in both the heart attack group and the stroke group", said pet owner Dr. Martha Gulati, who is the editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org, the American College of Cardiology's patient education platform. For stroke patients living solo, the risk of another stroke was 27% lower, while repeat stroke risk was 12% lower for dog owners who didn't live alone.

Additionally, dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 31% lower risk of death by heart attack or stroke compared to non-owners.

"There are studies suggesting that individuals who have dogs have a better cholesterol profile and lower blood pressure", said Kramer, who is a pet owner.

Dog owners can take heart from new research about the possible health benefits of having a dog.

"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", said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, M.D., in a statement for the American Heart Association.

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A total of 181,696 patients had a heart attack and 154,617 had a stroke in this period, with 5.7 percent percent of the former and 4.8 percent of the latter owning dogs, respectively.

Caroline Kramer of the University of Toronto and her co-authors completed what is known as a meta-analysis by poring over the results of 10 existing studies on people with canine companions, and the overall chance of an owner dying of any cause.

In the other study, Dr.

In the press release, Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University and one of the researchers on the first study, pointed to social isolation as a "strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death".

Dr Kramer said: "Our findings suggest that having a dog is associated with longer life".

Studies deemed eligible for analysis included those conducted among adults age 18 or older, original data from an original prospective study, evaluated dog ownership at the beginning of the study and reported all-cause or cardiovascular mortality of patients. "Likewise, additional health benefits of dog companionship, such as positive social-psychological effects, should be taking into consideration as dog ownership can be particularly beneficial for specific populations such as single elderly individuals". The results, however, were very positive.

Part of the benefit is likely due to the physical activity that comes with having a dog, Kramer said.

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