Dog ownership linked with longer life, especially for heart patients

It's likely that the health benefits of dog ownership have to do with the amount of exercise needed to keep the furry friends healthy- studies show dog owners can get 30 minutes more exercise a day than people who don't own dogs. Just who is res

Heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to people who did not own a dog.

Kramer says the results are promising, but more research is needed to provide health benefits for having a dog. The researchers found that compared with nonownership, dog ownership correlated with a significantly reduced risk for all-cause mortality (relative risk, 0.76); the risk reduction was greater in individuals with prior coronary events (relative risk, 0.35). Dog owners also had a lower risk for death during 638,219 person-years of follow-up after ischemic stroke (corresponding adjusted hazard ratios, 0.73 and 0.88, respectively).

Uppsala University researchers used a major national health register to come up with a list of almost 182,000 patients aged 40 to 85 who'd suffered an acute heart attack between 2001 and 2012.

The risk of death for stroke patients living alone after hospitalization was 27 per cent lower and 12 per cent lower for those living with a partner or child.

Nine of these studies included comparison of death outcomes for dog owners and non-owners, and four compared cardiovascular outcomes for dog owners and non-owners.

In the press release, Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University and one of the researchers on the first study, pointed to social isolation as a "strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death".

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Originally, the study was to see whether dog ownership was associated with reducing cardiovascular mortality, but the data showed it warded off other causes of death too.

The review of the health benefits of man's best friend analyzed research involving almost 4 million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The benefit was highest for dog owners who lived alone. Kramer of the University of Toronto Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mt Sinai Hospital told Reuters Health by phone.

Kramer has also personally experienced the positive side-effects of dog ownership in the form of her miniature schnauzer, Romeo, whom she credits with increasing her physical activity by 10,000 steps per day. Our analyses did not account for confounders such as better fitness or an overall healthier lifestyle that could be associated with dog ownership. But studies looking at whether having a dog extends survival have had mixed results.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show dogs decrease stress and promote relaxation and impact almost all stages of our lives.

Co-authors of the meta-analysis are Caroline K. Kramer, M.D., Ph.D., Sadia Mehmood, B.S., and Renée S. Suen.

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