Want to live longer? Get a dog

Want to live longer? Get a dog

Want to live longer? Get a dog

Researchers found, after looking at data from over 3 million people, that the increased social support and physical activity that comes from having a dog lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11% and death from any cause by 15%.

People living alone fared the best, as owning a dog decreased their risk of death by 33 percent and their likelihood of a cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent, when compared to single individuals who do not have a pet.

People who live alone have been shown previously to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular death.

"This was one of the most interesting findings: we see that dogs have a larger impact in households without other humans", Tove Fall, the study's senior author and an associate professor at Uppsala University, told The Local. Other explanations include effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner, for example.

"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", Fall said.

The study authors were also surprised to find that people who owned dogs that were originally bred for hunting-like terriers, retrievers and scent hounds-were the most protected from heart disease and death.

Researchers at Uppsala University reviewed data collected from 2001 to 2012 from seven different national registries, including the Swedish Agricultural Agency's dog owner's register and the Swedish Kennel Club's register, in addition to the Register of the Total Population, which contains information on birth, migration, changes of citizenship, civil status and death on all Swedish citizens and residents. "I think that a pet brings a lot of joy and companionship into a house, so if a person has the capacity to take care of it, they certainly should", she says.

The team behind the Swedish study also observed a link between hunting breed ownership and heart health, which was unexpected.

The risk of death fell by 11 percent in households with multiple people. It's possible that dog owners are healthier and more active before they get a canine companion, she said.

Cardiovascular disease causes more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths in the United Kingdom 160,000 each year. A dog forces you into more activity - he needs walks, after all! Prior research has shown that living alone raises the risk for heart disease.

More: Does Sleeping With Your Dog Help or Harm Your Sleep Quality?

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