Dog owners less likely to die of heart attacks, study suggests


Owning a dog could quite literally save your life, a new study has revealed.

>> Read more trending news

Dog owners who live alone have a 36 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those without dogs. When it comes to dog owners who live with family members, the risk decreases by 15 percent.

"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household," Mwenya Mubanga, a study author and PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden, told CNN.

» RELATED: This Texas woman’s heart literally broke when her dog died, doctors say

Published in “Scientific Reports,” the study was conducted by researchers in Sweden who examined medical and pet ownership records of 3.4 million people. Those analyzed by the study were between 40 and 80 years old. Participants were followed for up to 12 years, with around 13 percent owning pet dogs.

Researchers also noted that individuals who owned dogs originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, saw even greater benefits. It's unclear exactly why this is, but researchers suggest that these breeds require more exercise, meaning the owner is necessarily more active and healthier.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

However, while the study clearly shows correlation between dog ownership and better heart health, it may not necessarily prove causation.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease," Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University and senior author of the study, told the BBC.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health."

At the same time, previous research has also pointed to the positive health benefits of owning dogs. For example, one study showed that children with dogs at home had a 15 percent reduced risk of asthma. Authors of that study suggested this was due to the "hygiene hypothesis," which posits that too clean of an environment actually increases an individual's susceptibility to allergies.

» RELATED: Sheriff: Toddler’s dog stayed with him while he was missing

In fact, the authors of the new study also said a possible reason for the positive effect of dogs on the heart may be connected to bacteria. According to the researchers, dogs actually change the dirt in their owners’ environment, meaning they may also influence their owner's bacterial microbiome. This collection of microscopic species lives in the gut and may benefit cardiovascular health.

But perhaps the biggest factor the research points to is the social aspect of owning a dog.

» RELATED: Ever wonder why dogs are so darn friendly? Science says it’s in their genes

"[Dog ownership] may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events," Dr. Rachel Bond, associate director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told CNN.

And of course, dogs definitely increase an individual's overall happiness.

» RELATED: 7 dog hacks for pet parents in the city 

"As many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy," Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation told BBC.

"Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them,” she said.

» RELATED: Do people care more about suffering dogs than suffering humans?


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation World

Trump praises Montana congressman who body-slammed reporter
Trump praises Montana congressman who body-slammed reporter

President Donald Trump praised a Montana congressman who assaulted a reporter on the eve of a special election last year, joking Thursday night that “he’s my kind of guy,” the Great Falls Tribune reported. >> Read more trending news  Speaking at a rally in Missoula, Trump mentioned Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded...
Possible morning frost, showers to return towards evening 
Possible morning frost, showers to return towards evening 

Cold with some patchy frost early Showers return for Friday night games Blustery weekend  TODAY: Another cold morning with temperatures down in the 30s. Clear skies could allow for some spotty frost early on as well. Clouds filter in through the day with highs in the upper 50s. Some rain showers return towards early evening and which...
Texas business offering free tattoos for toy donations
Texas business offering free tattoos for toy donations

Toys for tattoos is catching on in South Texas. >> Read more trending news  Residents looking for a bargain on tattoos can find a good deal in San Antonio while helping flood victims, WOAI reported. Platinum Tattoos & Body Piercings is running a promotion called “Toy4Tats,” the television station reported. The San Antonio...
Banksy's shredding prank was supposed to totally destroy artwork
Banksy's shredding prank was supposed to totally destroy artwork

The director’s cut did not quite follow the plan. >> Read more trending news  The British street artist whose “Girl With Balloon” artwork self-shredded after being sold for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction on Oct. 5, suggested that the painting was supposed to be totally destroyed, and that the machine jammed,...
Canadian Girl Guide, 9, sells out of cookies in front of cannabis store
Canadian Girl Guide, 9, sells out of cookies in front of cannabis store

On the first day of legal sales of cannabis from Canadian retail stores, a 9-year-old Girl Guide saw her chance to cash in.  >> Read more trending news  Elina Childs of Edmonton and her father showed up at Nova Cannabis on Wednesday, pulling a wagon full of cookies, CBC reported. Elina sold all 30 boxes in less than 45 minutes...
More Stories