Attention, dog owners: your furry friend could extend your life.
A study published Tuesday by Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association, says owning a dog is linked with living longer.
The meta-analysis looked at studies published from 1950 to May 2019 that evaluated dog ownership and its association to mortality. The research included 10 studies that yielded data from more than 3 million participants.
Scientists found dog owners were likely to live longer than those who didn’t have dogs: Dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause, according to the study. For people with heart problems, living with a dog had an even greater benefit, authors said.
The potentially life-extending benefits of dog ownership could be traced in part to increased physical activity from walking the dog, authors speculated. The study found dog owners were less likely to die from heart disease compared with nonowners.
Authors said the study’s conclusions could be influenced by other traits, such as avoiding smoking or alcohol.
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Keith C. Ferdinand, professor at Tulane University School of Medicine, said that 10 times more women die from heart disease and stroke than breast cancer. He said dogs address multiple factors that contribute to cardiovascular diseases, including mental and physical health.
“Having a family pet may assist a person with managing stress, increasing activity and decreasing isolation and loneliness,” Ferdinand said. Ferdinand was not involved with the new study.
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By walking a dog 20 to 30 minutes a day, owners meet the American Heart Association’s recommended weekly activity of 150 minutes of moderate exercise to improve overall cardiovascular health, he said.
He warned against people misinterpreting the study’s results. Owning a dog does not overcome cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking.
“The best combination would not only be an active dog owner but also someone who addresses their multiple risk factors,” Ferdinand said.
Study co-author Caroline Kramer, who owns a dog, told USA TODAY in an email that dog ownership should not be taken lightly. Before adopting a dog, people should realize all the “attention, proper feeding, walks” and other responsibilities entailed in pet ownership, she wrote.
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