Want to Live Longer? Get a Dog.

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Image Credit: Steve Guttman

It has long been known that dogs benefit our lives, including everything from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to warding off allergies. But now recent research shows that our four-legged friends are actually saving our lives.

A study conducted by researchers in Sweden shows that owing a dog can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and death – with singles reaping the most benefits.

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Indeed, for people living alone, owning a dog can decrease the risk of a cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent, lower the chances of a heart attack by 11 percent and the risk of death by 33 percent, versus single individuals living without a pet.

But those who are in a multi-person household also see the perks of owning a dog, just not to the extent of singles. The chance of death decreased by 11 percent, whereas the chances of cardiovascular disease decreased by 11 percent. There was no change in the risk of having a heart attack.

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There could be a few reasons for the difference between multi-households and singles. For one, singles tend to be the only ones to walk their dogs, meaning they get more physical activity than non-singles. Also, being married and having children may play a role in being overall healthier, so the impact of having a dog is less prominent.

Regardless of the household set up, having a dog helps. In general, studies have shown dog owners have a higher level of physical activity, are more sociable and better immune systems.

The study looked at 3.4 million Swedish people, between the ages of 40 and 80, over a 12-year period. And while the American Heart Association already made a statement in 2013 correlating dog ownership with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, the team “aimed to clarify the association” with an in-depth study.

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