“Our analysis found having a dog is actually protective against dying of any cause,” said Mount Sinai endocrinologist Dr. Caroline Kramer, lead author of a new systematic review of nearly 70 years of global research published Tuesday in “Circulation,” a journal of the American Heart Association.
“Dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in all cause mortality,” said Kramer, an assistant professor in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Toronto.
“For those people, having a dog was even more beneficial. They had a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease,” Kramer said.
“People who lived with a dog actually had less mortality than people living alone who didn’t have a dog,” said Gulati, who was not involved in either study.
Heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to people who did not own a dog. Stroke survivors living alone had a 27% reduced risk of death.
“We know that loneliness and social isolation are strong risk factors for premature death and our hypothesis was that the company of a pet can alleviate that,” said study author Tove Fall, an associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden.
“Single owners have to do all the dog walks and we know that physical activity is important in rehabilitation after a myocardial infarction or stroke,” Fall added.
The American Heart Association points to studies that found pet owners who walk their dogs got up to 30 minutes more exercise a day than non-walkers.
“There are studies suggesting that individuals who have dogs have a better cholesterol profile and lower blood pressure,” said Kramer, who is a dog owner.
“One study, my favorite, found just the effect of petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure as much as a medication,” Kramer said.
Other studies suggest dogs provide companionship and affection that can reduce anxiety and depression. That’s especially important after a major illness, such as a heart attack or stroke.
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.
By Sandee LaMotte,