Your Dog May Keep Your Heart in Good Shape into Old Age

A woman walks with her dog in the Carrizo Plain National Monument near Taft Calif. in April. AFP  Getty Images

A woman walks with her dog in the Carrizo Plain National Monument near Taft Calif. in April. AFP Getty Images

Moreover, hunting breeds lowered their owners' cardiovascular disease risk the most.

Multi-person household owners also saw benefits, though to a lesser extent.

While the differing lifestyles and choices of people that have dogs and those that don't may influence these results, owning a dog has already been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease for quite some time.

"I do agree that owning pets could help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease", agrees Dr Valerie Kwai Ben, a cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center. Interestingly, the greatest protection was found among those who owned dogs of the hunting breeds. However, owning any dog will reduce an owners risk of death, just to different extents, said Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at Uppsala University.

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Researchers looked at 3.4 million Swedes aged 40-80 who went to hospital and who didn't have any previous heart disease.

"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results", said Fall.

The research, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, claims to be "by far the largest investigation" into the links between dog ownership and health.

Dogs can change their owner's microbiome (the microscopic species that live in the gut) by changing the bacteria they are exposed to around the house - seemingly for the better. Those who choose breeds for hunting would likely already be considered outdoorsy types, and regular exercise has always been associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular diseases.

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It is possible that dog owners are healthier and more active before they get a canine companion, she said. Other factors might come into play.

"It is hard to say if there truly is a causal effect".

Here's to keeping your health on a tight leash: New research suggests that having a dog might boost a single person's life span. When compared with single individuals without a dog, single dog owners experienced a 33% decreased risk of death.

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