People who own dogs may live longer and benefit from improved cardiovascular health, new research has found.
According to a study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, dog ownership could be particularly beneficial to heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone.
The research, carried out by professors at Uppsala University, examined Swedish residents aged 40 to 85 who experienced a heart attack or stroke between 2001 and 2012.
The study found that people who suffered a heart attack and lived alone were 33 per less likely to die after being released from hospital if they owned a dog.
Meanwhile, for stroke victims who were dog owners, the risk of death was 27 per cent lower.
Findings from a separate meta-analysis published in the same journal supported the study's results.
The analysis looked at a data set involving 3.8 million people drawn from 10 different studies and found that dog owners were 65 per cent less likely to die following a heart attack.
Authors concluded that the lower risk of death associated with dog ownership could be due to the increase in physical activity due to regular dog walks and the decrease in loneliness and depression that has been linked to dog ownership by previous studies.
Tove Fall, professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, said: "We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death.
"Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people. Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health."
But Fall added that more studies are needed in order to act on the findings in a way that supports heart attack and stroke patients.
"More research is needed to confirm a causal relationship and giving recommendations about prescribing dogs for prevention," Fall said.
"Moreover, from an animal welfare perspective, dogs should only be acquired by people who feel they have the capacity and knowledge to give the pet a good life."
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