Dog owners live longer even after surviving heart attack or stroke

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Owning a dog can give you a longer life and better cardiovascular results, especially if you have survived a heart attack or stroke. The dog becomes a bigger lure if you have lived a solitary life.

This was the conclusion after a new study and separate meta-analysis published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association. Its chair of the writing group, Glenn N. Levine, said: "While these non-randomized studies cannot 'prove' that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this."

Earlier studies have shown that if you own a dog, you reduce social isolation, improve your physical activity and bring down blood pressure. It can lead to improved cardiovascular results.

In a new study, scientists compared the health results between dog owners and non-owners following a heart attack or stroke, with information offered by the Swedish National Patient Register. Swedish residents between 40-85 years, who had undergone heart attack or ischemic stroke between 2001-2012, were participants in the study.

The study involved almost 182,000 people who suffered a heart attack. Almost 6% of these were dog owners, while almost 155,000 had an ischemic stroke. Almost 5% of these owned dogs, according to data provided by the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Swedish Kennel Club.

The study showed that the risk of death for heart attack patients who lived alone after hospitalization was 33% lower. It was lower by 15% for anyone living with a partner or child.

For stroke patients who lived alone after hospitalization, the risk of death was 27% lower. For those who lived with a partner or child, the risk of death was 12% lower.

Dog boarding
Dog boarding (Representational picture) Pixabay

"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, professor at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Due to increased activity and reduced depression and loneliness, the risk of death automatically gets lowered. However, researchers acknowledge that more studies are needed to confirm a causal relationship or drafting up a set of rules related to owning dogs. "Moreover, from an animal welfare perspective, dogs should only be acquired by people who feel they have the capacity and knowledge to give the pet a good life," said Fall.

This article was published in AHA Journals.