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PEOPLE

The Perks of the Puppy

If there wasn’t enough reason to love your furry friend here’s one more.

Researchers studying cardiovascular disease came to the conclusion after examining data from 3.4 million Swedes aged between 40 and 80.

Everything from registering a dog to visiting a hospital requires presentation of a unique identification number in Sweden. Therefore, the team from Uppsala University were able to access an anonymised set of data from national registries.

As a result, they were able to study whether having a registered dog was associated with cardiovascular disease and death in people with no history of the illness, over a 12-year period. They found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease or other causes.

Lowers Blood Pressure and Risk of Heart Disease

It turns out that dog owners had a 20 percent lower risk of dying compared to people who didn’t have a dog. The benefits were particularly strong for dog owners who lived alone. They had a 33 percent lower risk of death, and an 8 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, like stroke and heart failure.

Research has shown that living with pets has certain health benefits. People who own dogs tend to be more physically active, for instance, and have lower blood pressure. Today’s study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, adds to the body of research, especially in regards to cardiovascular disease — the number one killer in the world, including in the US. “

It could be a very efficient lifestyle intervention to get a dog,” says senior study author Tove Fall, an associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University. “For some people that feel lonely or have problems of keeping a good lifestyle, this could be a good help.”

Not for Everyone

“I met another scientist who had a stroke six months previously, and he told me ‘it was my dog that saved me’,” said Professor Tove Fall, a veterinarian at who co-authored the research, which was published in the Scientific Reports journal.

“Stroke rehabilitation is important and for this man, his motivation to get out of bed was walking his dog. So I think on an individual level it can have huge effects, but it was also interesting to see we could measure it in the whole population.”

While the study does not speculate on why the creatures might be better for life longevity, Professor Fall suggested that “there could be direct effects of having a dog, such as more motivation for physical activity”.

Getting a dog is time-consuming and expensive, so if you’re dealing with an important health issue and live by yourself, maybe you’d think twice about it. The study subjects were also all from Sweden, so results could be different in different countries.

 

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