As dog lovers have long suspected, owning a canine companion can be good for you. In fact, two recent studies and analyses published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a scientific journal of the American Heart Association, suggest your four-legged friend may help you do better after a heart attack or stroke and may help you live a longer, healthier life.
Dog owners have better results after a major health event.
The studies found that, overall, dog owners tend to live longer than non-owners. And they often recover better from major health events such as a heart attack or stroke, especially if they live alone.
Some exciting news for dog owners:
- Heart attack survivors who live alone had a reduced risk of death if they owned a dog, while survivors who lived with someone else (a partner or child) had a reduced risk.
- Stroke survivors who lived by themselves had a reduced risk of death if they owned a dog, while survivors who lived with someone else (a partner or child) had a reduced risk.
- Dog owners are less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than non-dog owners.
Move more, stress less.
Interacting with dogs can boost your production of “happy hormones” such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. This can lead to a greater sense of well-being and help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And having a dog can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, ease depression and improve fitness.
Studies show that people who walk their dogs get significantly more exercise than those who don’t. And there’s a bonus: Our pets can also help us feel less social anxiety and interact more with other humans. Maybe that’s why dog owners report less loneliness, depression and social isolation.
Make the most of dog ownership.
Here are some tips to make the most of your four-legged companion time:
- Play and interact with your pooch to get the most health benefits — for both of you.
- Get moving with your pet. You’ll both get exercise and fresh air, and you may find yourself meeting other dog owners in your area. Socializing can be a good thing.
- Hit the road. Love to travel? Your dog might too. Research pet-friendly hotels so you and your furry friend can go on adventures together.
- Savor the snuggles. Give lots of scratches behind the ears, belly rubs or good old-fashioned head pats. The more you love your pet, the more they’ll love you back.
Dog ownership associated with longer life, especially among heart attack and stroke survivors, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes Journal Report, October 2019