Having a dog might just save your life, study says
18 November, 2017, 01:41 | Author: Rolando Keller
Dog owners were more likely to be younger than non-owners, Fall and colleagues wrote, and were more likely to live in rural areas. "Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner", says Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and associate professor at Uppsala. "It may also be that those who choose to get a dog from the beginning have lower risk of cardiovascular disease, for example, through an active lifestyle".
For the study, Mubanga and team used data from the Sweden's Register of the Total Population to evaluate the heart health of more than 3.4 million Swedes between 40 and 80 years old over 12 years (from 2001 to 2013).
They found *dog owners* had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes.
For people living alone, owning a dog can decrease their risk of death by 33% and their risk of cardiovascular related death by 36%, when compared to single individuals without a pet, according to the study.
"Previous findings on dog ownership and the risk of CVD are conflicting", Fall et al. wrote. Dog ownership has also been linked to elevated parasympathetic and diminished sympathetic nervous system activity, lower reactivity to stress and faster recovery of blood pressure after a stressful activity. As a result, the researchers posit, dog owners went out more and had added more social interaction than those without dogs.
An interesting finding, though purely correlative, was that dogs belonging to breeds originally selected for hunting offered the most protection, the authors reported in Scientific Reports. "Our observational study can not provide evidence for a causal effect of dog ownership on cardiovascular disease or mortality", they write. "Although careful attention was paid to adjusting for potential confounders in a set of sensitivity analyses, it is still possible that personal characteristics that we did not have information about affect the choice of not only acquiring a dog, but also the breed and the risk of CVD".
The study also says that having a dog increases people's motivation to be more active and add more physical activity into their lives, especially in single-person households where the individuals are exclusively responsible for walking and exercising with their pets. (Might not get that one past the institutional review board.) But in the meantime, we'll take this association as further proof that dogs are the best and that's the end of the story.
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