Study Suggests Fido May Help You Live Longer

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
December 16, 2019
Study Suggests Fido May Help You Live Longer

Ever notice “Who Rescued Who” bumper stickers while in traffic? What seems like pet owner sentiment actually has some scientific support.

For years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credited pet ownership with decreasing stress, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and loneliness. But owning a dog can actually help you live longer, according to a new study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.  

Canadian researchers identified 10 studies published between 1950 and 2019 that looked at whether owning a dog helped lower the risk of dying from any cause and specifically from cardiovascular disease. Researchers extracted data – that involved almost four million subjects and more than five million events, combined it and analyzed it using the random-effects model.  

Results suggested that owning a dog lowered the risk of dying from any cause by 24 percent. And if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, dog ownership can reduce your risk from cardiovascular disease by 31 percent. 

Meanwhile in Sweden, researchers also found that owning a dog lowers the risk of overall death and cardiovascular health, particularly among residents living alone, according to a study published in Nature

Petting or just spending time with a dog increases oxytocin, a hormone that helps ease stress while lowering cortisol, a hormone triggered by stress. And of course, having to walk a dog helps owners fit some physical activity into their daily routine

“Our furry friends provide emotional support, easing some of our burdens,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Being responsible for a life gives us a purpose and exercises our cognitive skills – we have to remember to feed, walk, bathe and in some cases medicate our dog(s). Years ago, an Italian study found that shelter dogs were beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients, which makes sense.” 

But it isn’t just dogs. Cats also help lower the risk of dying from a heart attack by 30 percent and by stroke by 33 percent, according to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota Stroke Research Center. Cats’ purrs have calming, healing qualities that help reduce stress and blood pressure, as well as facilitate bone density and healing.

“Just having a pet – regardless of which species you chose – has benefits,” Kaminetsky says. “If you’re considering adopting a pet and have asthma or allergies, make sure you discuss it with your doctor first.”

If you do not have a doctor, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you develop a personalized wellness program that includes exercise. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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