Medical Mysteries

Want to live longer? Get a dog

Written by Healthy Living

Man’s best friend also is good for man’s health.

“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”—Agnes Sligh Turnbull

If you’ve ever shared your life with a dog, you know that statement is true. Dogs give us absolute love. No matter how crummy your day has been, your dog will meet you at the door with enthusiasm and a wagging tail.

Author Jonathan Carroll says dogs are “minor angels,” because “they love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy.” All they ask is a little food, some outdoor time, and an occasional tummy rub.

Dogs don’t just bring us love and happiness. Scientific studies have shown that dog owners live longer. The leading study was done by researchers at Sweden’s Uppsala University. The study focused on 3.4 million people, ages 40 to 80, who had no history of cardiovascular disease.
Reporting on the study, Time magazine states: “They found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than people who did not report owning a dog, as well as a lower risk of death from other causes. That was true even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, body mass index, and socioeconomic status.”

Other researchers agreed with the Swedish team. A panel of experts from the American Heart Association concluded that having a dog likely lowers the risk of heart disease. “The emotional benefits of having an affectionate creature are also one of the theories for why dog lovers live longer,” suggests Dr. Thomas Lee, co-editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter.
In addition to the emotional benefits, the presence of a dog probably causes its human friend to be move physically active and live a healthier lifestyle. “People who have dogs live longer than people who have cats, and the assumption has been that dogs naturally cause their owners to be more active,” the doctor says.

Dr. Tove Fall, the senior author of the Swedish study, says that people who choose to own dogs may simply be more active and in better health to begin with. She is a veterinarian and associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University. Many pet owners are convinced that their pet has been important to them in terms of social support. “I also notice that the people I meet during walks are often other dog owners, especially in bad weather,” she says.

But, the doctor says, not everyone is up to owning a dog: “Don’t give a dog to your grandmother in the hope she’ll live longer.”

“Dog Owners Live Longer,” by Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, Nov. 22, 2017.
“A dog could be your heart’s best friend,” by Daniel DeNoon, executive editor, Harvard Heart Letter, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, Oct. 29, 2015.
“Do dog owners live longer?” by Nicky Broyd, WebMD UK Health Needs, Nov. 17, 2017.
“It’s Official: Dog Owners Live Longer, Healthier Lives,” by Amanda MacMillan, Time magazine, Nov. 17, 2017.

About the author

Healthy Living

Healthy Living is unique in a sea of health magazines that only present information on nutrition and exercise. Published by Akers Media Group, Healthy Living goes much farther by focusing on the four pillars of a true wellness — physical, mental, spiritual and financial health.

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