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We have all heard of the benefits of owning a dog. They are after all called man's best friend for a reason. But did you know they may actually extend your lifespan?
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According to two new studies, that may just be the case particularly for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone.
Two well-done studies
"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 in a statement Glenn N. Levine, M.D., chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association's scientific statement on pet ownership.
"Further, these two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality. While these non-randomized studies cannot 'prove' that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this."
The first study compared the health outcomes of dog owners and non-owners after a heart attack or stroke using data by the Swedish National Patient Register. It found that the risk of death was 33% lower for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalization and 27% lower for stroke patients.
Over 3.8 million people
The second study, however, was what was really impressive. This study used patient data of over 3.8 million people taken from 10 separate studies and found that dog owners experienced a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, a 65% reduced risk of mortality after a heart attack, and a 31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues.
This may come from the fact that dogs, as previous studies have shown, force you to have a more active lifestyle and also keep you company decreasing your chances of loneliness and depression.
Still, despite these positive benefits, the researchers emphasized that dogs should be adopted only by those people ready and able to take care of them. "From an animal welfare perspective, dogs should only be acquired by people who feel they have the capacity and knowledge to give the pet a good life," said Levine.