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Dog ownership decreases mortality following a heart attack

ByKate McIntosh

Oct 24, 2019

Canine lovers will be pleased, though probably not surprised, to hear about the results of two recent studies reporting the apparent health benefits of dog ownership.

A Swedish study looked at data from over 330,000 people who had either a heart attack or a stroke between 2001 and 2012. They found that, for people who lived alone with a dog, the risk of death was 33 per cent and 27 per cent lower for heart attack and stroke patients respectively; compared to those who lived alone and did not own a dog. For those living with a partner or child, dog ownership appeared to lower the risk of death by 15 per cent for heart attack patients and 12 per cent for stroke patients.

Dr Tove Fall,  from Uppsala University in Sweden, the lead researcher for this study, told The Student of possible mechanisms contributing to the results:  “Firstly, dog owners report more physical activity, which is beneficial both for reducing stress and for improving cardiovascular fitness. Secondly, [dogs] provide company and can relieve loneliness, which is… important for both mental and physical health. Third, those that get a dog may be more social and/or interested in physical activity, which may be linked to better health outcomes, even without the dog”.

In Toronto, researchers assessed studies published between 1950 and 2019, and identified an association between dog ownership and a 24 per cent lower risk of death as well as a 31 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes. The lead researcher for the study, Dr Caroline Kramer from the University of Toronto said that the results were “somewhat expected,” since dog ownership was associated with “increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports.”

How could students benefit from dog ownership? Fall told The Student, “University students may benefit from dog ownership as dogs can provide motivation for increasing time spent outdoors, decrease a sedentary lifestyle and relieve stress” – but ownership is likely to be impractical for most students. Spending time with dogs may be enough, though – while Kramer concedes that she is not aware of such a study, she “would speculate that having a dog could help students.”

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and find your own canine companion – it will definitely improve your life, and one day it could save it.


Image: Kate McIntosh

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