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Owning a dog helps reduce risk of death resulting from cardiovascular disease, according to a new Swedish study.
A 12-year study conducted by Uppsala University examined the hospital records of 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to determine if dog ownership is correlated to diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases. Results revealed that dog owners had a 23% lower risk of death from heart failure, heart attack, or stroke as opposed to non-dog owners.
Dog ownership was also found to boost physical activity and the immune system. Those who own hunting breeds like terriers and retrievers had the highest resistance to heart diseases. Regular contact with dogs also entails transmission of the bacteria they naturally carry; exposure to a variety of bacteria and viruses can help boost people’s immune systems.
However, experts cautioned that not all findings should be taken at face value. Dr. Rachel Bond of the Women’s Heart Health at the Lenox Hill Hospital pointed out some loopholes in the study. She said that hunting breed owners might be inclined to do more physical activity as these dogs are more active than smaller ones. Because the study also excluded individuals with existing heart conditions, Bond said that it might only mean that people with good heart health in the first place are just more likely to be dog owners.
Aside from dog ownership, cat ownership and its health implications were explored by another study. The researchers claimed that owning a cat manages stress and anxiety, which are associated with heart diseases, by reducing blood pressure and heart rate. Lead researcher Adnan Qureshi inferred that stroking a pet cat can lower stress-related hormones in the blood.