Dog Ownership Could Help You Live Longer Post-Heart Attack or Stroke—Here's Why
If you are a dog owner, it's likely you feel as if your pup is part of the family, but Fido may serve an even greater purpose than being a friendly face to come home to each day. New research funded in part by the American Heart Association found links between dog ownership and longevity—especially for those who are survivors of heart attack or stroke.
The first study, conducted at Uppsala University in Sweden, analyzed data from the Swedish National Patient Register for people between the ages of 40-85 that had experienced a heart attack or stroke. Dog owners that were heart attack survivor and lived alone had a 33% reduced risk of death, and a 15% reduced risk when living with a partner or child. Dog owners that experienced a stroke had a 27% reduced mortality risk if living alone and a 12% reduced risk if living with a partner.
The second study, conducted at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, analyzed data from more than 3.8 million people from 10 different studies and found that compared to non-dog owners, dog owners experienced a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, a 65% reduced risk of death after a heart attack and a 31% reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular issues.
Researchers believe this phenomenon is due to several factors—dog ownership reduces instances of social isolation, increases one's need to be physically active on a regular basis and has even shown to reduce blood pressure and improve one's cholesterol profile.
"We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death. Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people," said Tove Fall, D. V. M., lead researcher for the first study in an AHA press release. "Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health."
Caroline K. Kramer, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the second study said her personal experience as a dog owner has "increased my steps and physical activity each day, and he has filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love."
The AHA notes that it's important to only consider adopting a dog if you have the resources and knowledge to be able to give the pet a good quality of life. Check out our Healthy Pets section for more information on keeping a pup happy and healthy.
Related: 15 Little Ways to Protect Your Heart