Owning a dog could lengthen your life

A new study has found a link between dog ownership and good cardiovascular health.
By Vicky Webb | Nov 20, 2017
Researchers in Sweden have discovered that dog owners have a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who do not have pets, according to new research published in Scientific Reports.

In the study, scientists from Uppsala University studied 3.4 million people aged 40 to 80 and noted how dog ownership affected their health. They did this by analyzing national databases taken from between 2001 and 2012. This revealed that dog owners had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease overall, especially for those that owned hunting breeds like terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds.

There is a chance that link is because owning a dog may make people more active. In addition, dogs could help people's heart health by increasing their social contact and improving their well-being. Some also believe that dogs can alter a person's bacterial microbiome -- the collection of microscopic species that live in the gut -- by exposing them to bacteria they normally would not encounter.

"The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of heart attack," explained lead author Mwenya Mubanga, a researcher at Uppsala University, according to BBC News.

These findings fall in line with past research that suggests people who live alone have a higher risk of cardiovascular death. As a result, there is a chance that simply having a dog around improves a person's life and makes them more carefree.

However, despite the findings, there were some limitations to the data.For instance, the study only looked for associations across large populations and did not provide an answer onhow dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease.There could already be certain differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which may have influenced the results

"It is hard to say if there truly is a causal effect,"said Rachel Bond, Associate Director of Women's Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved in the research, according to CNN. "This study in particular, excluded patients with heart disease in general, and we know that disabled people may be less likely to own a dog so that really raises the question if owning a dog lead to heart health or is it merely a marker for people who are more likely to have good heart health."

Even so, the team believes they have found enough of a connection to add another benefit of owning a dog. It also shows that, whether or not you own a pet, keeping active is key to a good heart.

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