Good news, dog lovers: Study says owning a dog is actually good for your heart

Oct 12, 2019
The research uncovered a link between dog ownership and good heart health. Source: Getty

Having a furry friend at your side could actually help you live longer — as a recent study has proved that having a dog in your life not only benefits your soul, but can also improve your heart health.

The research uncovered a link between dog ownership and good heart health, after examining a mixed group of dog owners and those without pets.

The study, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association, looked at Swedish residents aged 40 to 85 who experienced a heart attack or stroke between 2001 and 2012.

Compared to people who did not own a dog, researchers found that for dog owners the risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalisation was 33 per cent lower. Meanwhile, for stroke victims who were dog owners, the risk of death was 27 per cent lower.

“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,” Tove Fall, professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, said.

“Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health.”

Findings from a second scientific review and meta-analysis about dog ownership and good heart health backs up these results. Researchers looked at a data set involving 3.8 million people taken from 10 other studies, and found that dog owners experienced a 65 per cent reduced risk of death following a heart attack, 24 per cent reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 31 per cent reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular-related issues.

“Having a dog was associated with increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports,” Caroline Kramer, lead author of the study, said. “As such, the findings that people who owned dogs lived longer and their risk for cardiovascular death was also lower are somewhat expected.”

Meanwhile, it comes after a recent study found that regularly consuming nuts can significantly reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by as much as 17 per cent.

The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress and confirmed that simply increasing your nut intake from every two weeks to twice a week could reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, which is also currently Australia’s leading cause of death. As they present such a great source of unsaturated fat, protein and fibre, the dietary guidelines suggest eating a minimum of 30g a day for those looking to improve their heart health over time.

With decades of research already indicating the connection between nut consumption and an improvement in cholesterol, this new information now gives hope not only for those looking to maintain a healthy heart but also potentially those with ongoing heart problems.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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