The lifestyle choice that helps heart attack survivors
Dog ownership may be associated with longer life and better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone, according to a new study and a separate meta-analysis.
Given previous research demonstrating how social isolation and lack of physical activity can negatively impact patients, researchers in both the study and meta-analysis sought to determine how dog ownership affected health outcomes.
Prior studies have shown that dog ownership alleviates social isolation, improves physical activity and even lowers blood pressure, leading researchers to believe dog owners could potentially have better cardiovascular outcomes compared to non-owners.
Researchers in this study compared the health outcomes of dog owners and non-owners after a heart attack or stroke using health data provided by the Swedish National Patient Register. Patients studied were Swedish residents ages 40-85 who experienced heart attack or ischemic stroke from 2001-2012.
Compared to people who did not own a dog, researchers found that for dog owners:
- The risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalisation was 33 per cent lower, and 15 per cent lower for those living with a partner or child.
- The risk of death for stroke patients living alone after hospitalisation was 27 per cent lower and 12 per cent lower for those living with a partner or child.
In the study, nearly 182,000 people were recorded to have had a heart attack, with almost six per cent being dog owners, and nearly 155,000 people were recorded to have had an ischemic stroke, with almost five per cent being dog owners.
Dog ownership was confirmed by data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture (registration of dog ownership has been mandatory since 2001) and the Swedish Kennel Club (all pedigree dogs have been registered since 1889).
The lower risk of death associated with dog ownership could be explained by an increase in physical activity and the decreased depression and loneliness, both of which have been connected to dog ownership in previous studies.
Do you own a dog? Would you think about a pet given the results of these two new studies?