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18 November 2017, 01:08 | Kristen Gross
33 pc reduction? Your dog is protecting you from this disease
A study of more than 3.4-million people revealed that having a dog in the house is linked to living a longer life.
"Previous findings on dog ownership and the risk of CVD are conflicting", Fall et al. wrote. The study, done at the Uppsala University in Sweden, says that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world and having a canine companion will reduce the risk of having the disease since dogs provide a form of non-human support - especially for the elderly and single people. Dogs can alleviate psychosocial stress, depression and loneliness, according to the study, all of which are stressors that can encourage coronary heart disease, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality.
The study-with a sample size hundreds of times larger than any other studies on this topic-was not created to show a cause-and-effect relationship between dog ownership and reduced risk of death or cardiovascular disease, or to determine why these factors may be related.
According to the study, single dog owners had greater protection from cardiovascular disease and death because they were the sole person interacting with their pet as opposed to couples and families. They focused on 3.4 million people who had no history of cardiovascular disease in 2001, and followed their health records-as well as whether they registered as a dog owner-for about 12 years.
However, dogs themselves might not be bringing about positive health effects, said Dr John Bradshaw, a pet researcher at the University of Bristol who was not involved in the study.
The team analysed national registries for people aged 40 to 80, and compared them to dog ownership registers.
The protective effect was especially prominent for people living alone, who have been found to have a higher risk for early death than those who live with other people.
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The researchers also said that aside from physical activity, owning a dog might also contribute to a person's wellbeing by increasing social contact or possibly changing gut bacteria. Chances of a heart attack were also found to be 11% lower.
Senior author Professor Tove Fall, said: 'We know dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results'.
Owners of hunting breeds, such as retrievers, scent hounds and terriers, were the most protected from cardiovascular disease and death.
There's no particular reason to think the results would differ in the United States; it would really depend on how similar Americans' attitudes and behaviors as dog parents are to Swedish pet owners.
Dog owners were more likely to be younger than non-owners, Fall and colleagues wrote, and were more likely to live in rural areas.
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.
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