Man's Best Friend Now Linked to Improved Heart Health

For the longest time, dogs have been referred to as “man’s best friend.” A lot of people seek the companionship of a dog to reduce anxiety and loneliness resulting from the stress of their everyday lives. Universities across the country implement Dog Days where they bring therapy dogs to campus to reduce stress and anxiety for the students during exam week. Dogs are beneficial for all age groups but a recent study using the Swedish National Patient Register, along with data from the Swedish Kennel Club and Swedish Board of Agriculture Dog Register, suggests that dog ownership could attribute to the improvement of the outcome of patients after a major cardiovascular event.

Courtesy: Hush Naidoo

According to the study, “Dog owners had a lower risk of death after hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction during the full follow-up period of 804 137 person-years, with an adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of 0.67 (95% CI, 0.61 to 0.75) for those who lived alone, and HR of 0.85 (95% CI, 0.80 to 0.90) for those living with a partner or a child.” Although this is not a direct causal relationship, it does have promising implications on owning a dog while living alone. The results of this study could dramatically alter the negative connotation surrounding the way people think about single-occupancy households and loneliness for the future.

The responsibility of owning a dog is more than many people think. It requires owners to interact with the dog regularly and take it out on walks. With the formation of this bond, a person who lives alone can decrease their feelings of depression, loneliness and anxiety through having this newfound companion. In the study, they used data from people who were from single-occupancy households. These types of people, normally age 40-80, are most susceptible to issues involving mental health because they tend to live alone. Also, as people get older, they tend to have an increased chance of heart disease and cardiovascular issues. Not to say that people who live alone can’t combat this loneliness on their own, but it is still a pressing issue amongst many today.

Courtesy: Bruno Cervera

Things to think about:

There are a lot of things to look forward to when adopting a new dog. It’s like getting a new friend and family member to keep you company. According to The Humane Society, there are about 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US and 10,000 rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America. This gives you a ton of places to choose from if you’re considering adopting or rescuing a new dog. Along with this, the responsibility of owning a dog can be a valuable life experience. It requires so many different things including medical care, nourishment and love that it can become a full-time commitment.

Also, this study has some possible negative implications. The clarification that dogs should become a part of one’s life for reasons of improving one’s health needs to be brought to the forefront of discussion. A dog’s purpose for adoption should not only be attributed to reducing the risk of heart problems. It should be about the friendship and companionship gained when accepting and integrating someone new into your life. The rest is just a bonus.

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