Dog owners less likely to have cardiovascular diseases, and better chances of recovering from strokes or heart attacks
Loneliness and a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for premature death, and dogs are an excellent motivation for their owners to get outdoors and walk them
Dog's are commonly referred to as man's best friend. Adding more weight to the phrase are two analyses -- a report and a study-- which show that people who own dogs live longer with better cardiovascular health, particularly those who have survived a heart attack.
While earlier studies have shown that dogs make people happier and healthier, the first report by Swedish researchers aimed to shed light on how this happens. The researchers looked at two different sets of data for their analysis. To get information on heart attack and stroke incidents, they scanned through the health data provided by the Swedish National Patient Register for information on Swedish residents who experienced a heart attack or ischemic stroke from 2001-2012, aged between 40 and 85. The research team compared the list from this database with data gathered from the Swedish Kennel Club and the Swedish Board of Agriculture dog registers.
They found that of the 182,000 people who suffered a heart attack, almost 6 percent owned a dog, and among the 155,000 people who survived an ischemic stroke, almost 5 percent were dog owners. They found that the risk of death among those living alone with a dog after hospitalization was 33% lower for heart attack patients and 27% lower for stroke patients, compared to those who did not own a dog.
“We know that loneliness and a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for premature death. Dogs are an excellent motivation for their owners to get outdoors and walk them,” Tove Fall, the co-author of the study and a professor of molecular epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden, told NBC news.
Supporting this analysis was another study, which builds on patient data of over 3.8 million people taken from 10 separate studies. The researchers found that having dogs was linked to a 24 percent reduced risk of death from any cause among the general public and a 31 percent reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues, compared to those who did not own a dog. And for those who survived a heart attack, the researchers saw a 65 percent lesser risk of mortality.
One of the authors of the study, Caroline Kramer, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and an Endocrinologist and Clinician scientist at Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital, is positive about the link the study establishes between owning dogs and a better cardiovascular health.
"The next step on this topic would be an interventional study to evaluate cardiovascular outcomes after adopting a dog and the social and psychological benefits of dog ownership. As a dog 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," she said.
"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 Glenn N. Levine, M.D., chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association's scientific statement on pet ownership, Science Daily reported.
"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."