According to a recent study published in an academic journal on cardiovascular information and outcomes, dog ownership is linked to a 21% reduction in the risk of heart disease or complications in people. The study, which comes from the Swedish National Patient Registry, tracked thousands of patients who had previously suffered from a heart attack or stroke between the years of 2001 and 2012. Their findings suggest that individuals who also reported having a dog had a significantly lower risk of death in the year after a heart attack, as compared with non-dog owners.
While the numbers are astounding, the overall suggestion that four-legged members of the family are good for our health comes as no surprise. After all, time and time again, studies prove that having a furry companion can lead to all sorts of health benefits; everything from lowering blood pressure, increasing oxytocin, helping maintain a healthy weight, improving your social life, decreasing stress, lowering chance of allergies, and staving off depression.
While the correlation is clear, it’s hard to find the direct causal relationship between the benefits of owning a dog and the decrease in risk of heart attack. Is it because dog owners experience less social isolation? Or because they exercise more, a key component to rehabilitation after a heart attack? “The association between dog ownership and improved survival is real,” states cardiologist Dhruv Kazi of Beth Israel Medical Center. He goes on to say that “dogs offer companionship, reduce anxiety and loneliness, increase self-esteem, and improve overall mood.”
While the study didn’t extend the research to include cats, there has been at least one previous study linking cat ownership to the reduction of risk in cardiovascular diseases.
The way we see it? Having a furry friend is the ultimate act of self-care. Amidst the chaos and ups and downs of everyday life, loving a furry creature could simply be the most restorative, mood-stabilizing, feel-good experience of modern-day living. And we’ll take it!