Dog ownership linked to longevity in stroke and heart attack survivors

It's likely that the health benefits of dog ownership have to do with the amount of exercise needed to keep the furry friends healthy- studies show dog owners can get 30 minutes more exercise a day than people who don't own dogs. Just who is res

It's likely that the health benefits of dog ownership have to do with the amount of exercise needed to keep the furry friends healthy- studies show dog owners can get 30 minutes more exercise a day than people who don't own dogs. Just who is res

Dog owners live longer and are less likely to suffer and die from cardiovascular issues such as heart attacks and strokes, according to two new studies published Tuesday in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. What they found is that if you want to improve your health, a dog may be an even better way to do that than first thought. The respondents were between the ages of 40 and 85 who had a ischemic stroke or heart attack between 2001 and 2012.

"I don't think that this is what many people think about when adopting a dog", said Dr. Haider Warraich, director of the heart failure program at the Boston VA Healthcare System and who was not involved in the research.

Study co-author Tove Fall, a Swedish professor of molecular epidemiology at Uppsala University, agreed: "We know that loneliness and sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for premature death".

Kramer, assistant professor at the University of Toronto in the division of endocrinology and metabolism, led a research team who reviewed almost 70 years of global data before coming up with their conclusion.

"As such, the findings that people who owned dogs lived longer and their risk for cardiovascular death was also lower are somewhat expected", she said.

Dr. Caroline Kramer, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said of her study in a statement: "Having a dog was associated with increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports".

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Those who had a heart attack or other cardiovascular condition, or event had a 65 percent decreased the risk of dying in the next decade if they had a canine companion.

In fact, a number of cardiologists believe in the benefits of dog ownership so much they will actually prescribe a dog for their patients, if they believe the person can appropriately care for a pet. Caroline Kramer, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and an endocrinologist in NY.

A similar drop was seen among stroke patients once they were discharged, at 27 per cent lower than those without a dog. Studies were excluded if they were retrospective, did not provide an absolute number of events that occurred and reported non-fatal cardiovascular events.

The potentially life-extending benefits of dog ownership could be traced in part to increased physical activity from walking the dog, authors speculated.

The clinician scientist noted that it's a team that does not account for variables that can explain the difference in health outcomes between dog owners and the rest of the population. "The results, however, were very positive", said Dr. Kramer.

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