Heart's best friend

Dog owners live longer after cardiac events

Dog Owners Have Longer Life Expectancy After Cardiac Events - Medscape - October 21, 2019

A dog is not only man's best friend. Companionship from a dog may also have a beneficial effect on an owner's cardiac health and lengthen their life expectancy. This is the conclusion of a prospective study and a meta-analysis looking at the cardiovascular risks and survival of dog owners.

"These two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality," said Dr Glenn Levine, chair of the Working Group responsible for writing the official statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) on pet ownership. "While these non-randomised studies cannot 'prove' that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this," he continued.

Previous studies had shown that social isolation and a passive lifestyle have a negative impact on cardiovascular health. The researchers now set to examine whether and to what extent dog owners benefit from the companionship of their four-legged pets. It has been shown before that dog owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, suggesting better cardiac health. However, it was unclear if dog ownership has any impact on improved mortality because previous research yielded inconsistent results.

The meta-analysis looked into 10 prospective studies with more than 3.8 million patients with a follow-up of up to 22 years. Nine of them compared all-cause mortality of dog owners and non-owners and four studies compared cardiovascular outcomes. The results showed that dog ownership was associated with:

24% reduction in overall all-cause mortality

65% reduction in all-cause mortality in individuals who had prior coronary events

31% reduction in cardiovascular mortality

"Our findings suggest that having a dog is associated with longer life", said Dr Kramer, herself a dog owner, in a news release. Although confounding factors such as better fitness or a healthier lifestyle were not taken into consideration in the analysis, the results appear to be "very positive", she said. "The next step on this topic would be an interventional study to evaluate cardiovascular outcomes after adopting a dog and the social and psychological benefits of dog ownership."

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