"Dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in all-cause mortality," said Dr. Caroline Kramer who reviewed the health benefits of having a dog involving 4 million people.
Still debating over whether to get a dog or not? Here's something that will definitely push you more toward getting a furry friend of your own. A new research has found that having a dog might actually increase the longevity of your life, reports CNN.
The lead author of "A new systematic review of nearly 70 years of global research," Dr. Caroline Kramer, a Mount Sinai endocrinologist said, "Our analysis found having a dog is actually protective against dying of any cause."
Published on Tuesday in "Circulation", a journal of the American Heart Association, the study reviewed the health benefits of having a dog that involved 4 million people in Canada, United States, Scandinavia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Australia.
An assistant professor in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Toronto, Kramer said, "Dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in all-cause mortality."
Furthermore, this meta-analysis found that having a pet dog was more beneficial for people who had suffered from a heart attack or stroke. "For those people, having a dog was even more beneficial. They had a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease," said Kramer.
Similarly, another study of over 336,000 Swedish men and women published in "Circulation" on Tuesday found that the aftermath of cardiovascular events like heart attacks or strokes in people who owned dogs to be better.
According to theWorld Health Organization, strokes and heart attacks are the leading causes of death all around the world. Moreover, the benefit was observed to be the most for dog owners who lived alone.
Dr. Martha Gulati, a dog owner and the editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org, the American College of Cardiology's patient education platform, said, "The most interesting part of this study was that people who lived alone actually seem to get the greatest benefit in both the heart attack group and the stroke group."
Despite not being involved in either of the studies, Gulati said, "People who lived with a dog actually had less mortality than people living alone who didn't have a dog."
According to the study, stroke survivors living alone with a dog had a 27% reduced risk of death as compared to people with a pooch. And survivors of heart attack, who owned a dog and lived alone had a 33% lower 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.
Adding further he said, "Single owners have to do all the dog walks and we know that physical activity is important in rehabilitation after myocardial infarction or stroke."
However, both the studies were just observational and the researcher cannot prove if owning a dog was the actual reason for the patients' improved health conditions after a heart attack or stroke.
There was also no way to determine whether dog ownership directly resulted in increasing one's life expectancy except for a randomized clinical trial. "Is it the dog or is it the behaviors?" asked Gulati.
"Is it because you're exercising or is it because there is a difference in the type of person who would choose to have a dog versus somebody who would not? Are they healthier or wealthier? We don't know those things."
My patient’s dog died a few months ago and he stopped walking. He hasn’t gotten a new dog because his wife was worried that she would be left alone to take care of it. I wrote this Rx and told him to tell his wife that it’s my job to keep him around #DogRx #ExerciseIsMedicine pic.twitter.com/yrJXPygzXM— William Suh, MD (@willsuh76) October 29, 2018
Even the American Heart Association referred to a study that found dog owners to be engaging in more "physical activity and walking" and achieving "the recommended level of physical activity than nonowners of dogs."
Kramer, a dog owner said, "There are studies suggesting that individuals who have dogs have a better cholesterol profile and lower blood pressure. One study, my favorite, found just the effect of petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure as much as a medication."
Explaining why several hospitals today use therapy dogs for cardiac patients, Gulati said, "We know that if you have depression after a heart attack, you're more likely to have a poor outcome."
Apparently, there are many cardiologists who prescribe a dog for their patients if they believe the person is capable of taking care of it. "I know a lot of my patients often say to me after they have a heart attack or stroke, can I even take care of a dog? They worry because they don't want to leave the dog alone if something happens to them," said Gulati.
"But if possible, I always encourage them to get a dog...perhaps an older dog who needs to be rescued and not a puppy that will be harder to manage."
"While these non-randomized studies cannot 'prove' that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this," revealed Dr. Glenn Levine, the chairperson of the writing group of the American Heart Association's scientific statement on pet ownership.
However, the AHA also warns that "the primary purpose of adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet" should not be for reducing one's cardiovascular risk as caring for a dog involves a certain financial cost.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs visibly reduce stress and provides relaxation for people of every age. "They influence social, emotional and cognitive development in children, promote an active lifestyle, and have even been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures or the presence of certain cancer," said the CDC.
Kramer then goes on to explain the benefits of owning a dog in younger people. "The overall understanding of cardiovascular health is that the earlier that we implement healthier behaviors, the better. So like walking, not smoking. And I think that maybe dog ownership is part of that."