Having a pet dog can lower heart disease risk

Mandy Carr
November 18, 2017

They found *dog owners* had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes.

A dog can decrease the risk of death by 33 percent and the risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent for people who live alone versus singles without a pet. The study, done at the Uppsala University in Sweden, says that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world and having a canine companion will reduce the risk of having the disease since dogs provide a form of non-human support - especially for the elderly and single people.

Multi-person household owners also saw benefits, though to a lesser extent. Single dog owners also had an 11 percent lower risk of suffering a heart attack.

Researchers followed more than 3.4 million Swedish adults, ages 40 through 80, over a 12-year period to investigate their health in comparison with non-owners.

The scientists included more than 3.4 million individuals who didn't have any cardiovascular diseases before 2001 after linking together seven different national data sources, including two dog ownership registers. Just over 13 per cent were dog owners.

It's not clear exactly how the dogs helped avert heart disease, or whether getting one directly led to better health, cautioned Tove Fall, the senior author of the paper and associate professor in epidemiology at Uppsala University. We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results. As a result, the researchers posit, dog owners went out more and had added more social interaction than those without dogs.

You are likely to see more birthdays if you own a dog
You are likely to see more birthdays if you own a dog

Having a dog can bring a lot of love into your life.

They also said owning a dog may protect people from cardiovascular disease by increasing their social contact or wellbeing, or by changing the owner's bacterial microbiome.

While that might be true, there are enough other benefits to dog ownership to make it worth it. Dog owners are shown to be less depressed and make friends easier, according to a recent study.

While the research was carried out in Sweden, Fall does believe it may also apply to other countries, including the US, since popular breeds and people's attitudes toward dog care are similar. "The associations we see may be that dogs affect the owner's lifestyle and well-being positively", said Fall.

"I think it would be hard to take the data from Sweden and apply it to the United States since we have a more diverse population".

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