Having a dog can be associated with a longer life and better cardiovascular results. This effect is especially interesting for survivors of heart attack and stroke living alone, according to a new study and a separate meta-analysis published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes’, the journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).
«The findings in these two well-done studies and analyzes are based on previous studies and the conclusions of the 2013 AHA Scientific Declaration ‘Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk’ that dog ownership is associated withn reductions in factors that contribute to cardiac risk and cardiovascular events, ”recalls Glenn N. Levine, president of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership.
« In addition, » he adds, « these two studies provide good, quality data that indicate that dog ownership is associated with a reduction in cardiac mortality and all causes. While these non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog leads directly to reduced mortality, these solid findings they point clearly in this direction».
Given previous research demonstrating how social isolation and lack of physical activity can negatively affect To the patients, the researchers, both in the study and in the meta-analysis, sought to determine how dog ownership affects health outcomes. Previous studies have shown that dog ownership relieves social isolation, improves physical activity and even lowers blood pressure, leading researchers to believe that dog owners may have better cardiovascular outcomes compared to non-owners. .
33% less risk of death
The researchers in this study compared the health outcomes of dog owners and people who had no pet after a heart attack or stroke using health data provided by the Swedish National Patient Registry. The patients studied were Swedish residents between 40 and 85 years old who suffered a heart attack or ischemic stroke between 2001 and 2012.
Compared to people who didn’t have a dog, researchers found that for dog owners who live alone after hospitalization the risk of death after a heart attack was 33% lower and 15% lower for those who live with a partner or a child. In the case of stroke patients who live alone after hospitalization the risk was 27% lower and 12% lower for those living with a partner or a child.
In the study, it was recorded that almost 182,000 people suffered a heart attack, of which a 6% owned dogs, and about 155,000 people suffered an ischemic stroke, of which 5% owned dogs.
The lower risk of death associated with dog ownership could be explained byr an increase in physical activity and a decrease in depression and loneliness, which have been related to dog ownership in previous studies.
«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 – explains Tove Fall, professor at Uppsala University (Sweden) -. In addition, having a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health ».
«The results of this study suggest positive effects have a dog for patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke. However, more research is needed to confirm a causal relationship and give recommendations on the prescription of dogs for prevention – precisely. In addition, 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.
The researchers reviewed patient data from more than 3.8 million people taken from 10 different studies for a composite meta-analysis study. Of the 10 studies reviewed, nine included a comparison of all-cause mortality results for owners and non-owners of dogs, and four compared cardiovascular outcomes for owners and non-owners of dogs.
The researchers found that, compared to those without animals, dog owners experienced a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, a 65% reduced risk of mortality after a heart attack and 31% of reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular problems.