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You could live longer if you had a dog
18 November 2017, 01:43 | Clyde Nash
Research has shown a link between dog ownership and heart health
"Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected", explains Mwenya Mubanga, lead junior author of the study and Ph.D. student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University (as cited in an article by the university posted on the Laboratory Equipment website).
The team at Uppsala University analyzed national registries involving 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 without any prior cardiovascular diseases as of 2001.
Multi-person household owners also saw benefits, though to a lesser extent.
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.
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Dog owners were more likely to be younger than non-owners, Fall and colleagues wrote, and were more likely to live in rural areas. Risk of death among these dog owners fell by 11% and their chances of cardiovascular death were 15% lower.
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The results? Dog owners - especially dog owners who lived alone - had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Those living alone were 33 per cent less likely to die over the next 12 years if they owned a dog. We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation for the observed results.
"Dog owners in particular tend to be a little more extroverted, or outgoing" Kay Joubert, Director Companion Animal Services at PAWS, told The Huffington Post.
The findings also suggest increased social well-being and immune system development as additional reasons why dog ownership offers protection against cardiovascular disease and death.
While Bond may not prescribe a dog as treatment for a patient, she said that she will not discourage owning or buying one, or expressing the benefits of owning one.
The researchers stressed that while these types of studies show a relationship between the environmental factor and diseases in a large population, they do not provide answers to if and how dogs actually protect from heart disease and premature death. "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". "In warmer climates, they could keep them in the yard and won't have to actively take them for a walk", said Fall.
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