The American Heart Association (AHA) published the results of a study which found survivors of heart attacks and strokes had a much longer life expectancy if they owned a dog.
According to the study:
- Dog ownership was associated with a 33% lower risk of death for heart attack survivors living alone and 27% reduced risk of death for stroke survivors living alone, compared to people who did not own a dog.
- Dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 31% lower risk of death by heart attack or stroke compared to non-owners.
The study looked at thousands of Swedes who had suffered heart attacks or strokes from 2001-2012.
Experts theorized dog ownership indicated greater physical activity and less lonliness and social isolation than non-dog ownership.
“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., professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. “Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health.”
Beyond the Swedish study, the AHA undertook a comprehensive analysis of studies suggesting a link between dog ownership and heart health.
Researchers found that compared to non-owners, dog owners experienced a:
- 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality;
- 65% reduced risk of mortality after heart attack; and
- 31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues.
“Having a dog was associated with increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports,” said Caroline Kramer, M.D. Ph.D., 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, part of Sinai Health System. “As such, the findings that people who owned dogs lived longer and their risk for cardiovascular death was also lower are somewhat expected.”