Dog ownership linked to longevity in stroke and heart attack survivors

It's not just cats and dogs. Studies find health benefits for owners of all kinds of pets including birds hamsters gerbils fish snakes... and even bugs. One study found nursing home residents who cared for cockroaches were less depressed after

It's not just cats and dogs. Studies find health benefits for owners of all kinds of pets including birds hamsters gerbils fish snakes... and even bugs. One study found nursing home residents who cared for cockroaches were less depressed after

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".

The study participants were between the ages of 40 and 85 and had suffered heart attacks or strokes between 2001 and 2012. Compared to people who did not own a dog, researchers found that dog owners had a 33 percent lower risk of death after being hospitalised a heart attack if they lived alone, and a 15 percent lower risk if they lived with a partner or child.

"For those people, having a dog was even more beneficial", said Dr.

The investigators identified more than 181,000 heart attack victims, about 6% of whom owned a dog, and almost 155,000 stroke survivors, of whom 5% owned a dog.

Originally, the study was to see whether dog ownership was associated with reducing cardiovascular mortality, but the data showed it warded off other causes of death too.

Researchers reviewed patient data of over 3.8 million people taken from 10 separate studies for a composite meta-analysis study.

Man's best friend has always been praised for the ability to help mental wellbeing, reducing anxiety and loneliness, but less has been reported about how dogs might have a positive effect on physical health. Dog ownership reduced overall mortality from cardiovascular causes by 31%.

The latest evaluation indicates people who suffered heart attacks and lived alone were 33 percent less likely to die if they owned a dog, while stroke victims were 27 percent less likely.

"The results of this study suggest positive effects of dog ownership for patients who have experienced a heart attack or stroke", she said. However, more research is needed to confirm a causal relationship and giving recommendations about prescribing dogs for prevention. "As such, the findings that people who owned dogs lived longer and their risk for cardiovascular death was also lower are somewhat expected".

"Given the magnitude of the potential benefit - and likely little or no harm - these findings should encourage clinicians to discuss pet adoption with their patients, particularly those with preexisting cardiovascular disease and those living by themselves", Dr. Dhruv S. Kazi of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston writes in an editorial accompanying the study. Our analyses did not account for confounders such as better fitness or an overall healthier lifestyle that could be associated with dog ownership. "The results, however, were very positive", she added. Kramer of the University of Toronto Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mt Sinai Hospital told Reuters Health by phone.

Having a dog to care for not only increases physical activity, it reduces social isolation, which could help heart attack and stroke survivors in their recoveries, experts said.

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