Swedish scientists have recently revealed the one thing that will help you live longer and that secret will surprise you! Researchers from Uppsala University completed a 12-year study which concluded that owning a dog will drastically increase your lifespan.
Dogs bring a lot to our lives, and now their presence will help us fend off cardiovascular diseases and other heart-related conditions. While singles with dogs are reaping the most of the benefits, the advantages of owning one are clear all across the board.
The study followed over 3.4 million Swedish adults without a history of any heart conditions. Two dog ownership registers and seven different national data sources also participated in the research.
The findings showed that ones with a dog companion had a reduced risk of passing away and an even lowered chances of any cardiovascular disease.
Lead junior author of the study, Mwenya Mubanga said to the media: “Single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to single non-owners.”
Mubanga is currently completing her Ph.D. studies at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.
She also highlighted that a dog plays an important role of a family member with singles than those of a multi-person household.
The research also unveiled that hunting dogs such as Terriers, Retrievers and the like offered the most protection from heart diseases. This information was deduced surveying individuals between 40 and 80 years of age from a Swedish National Database.
In addition to a healthy life, bringing home a dog will also give us a boost to our immune system. This boost promotes general well being as well as provides protection from cardiovascular disease and death.
Tove Fall, the senior author of the study and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Uppsala University explained this in his statement: “We know that dog owners, in general, have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results. Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner.”
What it means, in layman terms is, dogs bring home dirt from the outside and they lick you. This, in turn, influences your microbiome – a type of bacteria that lives in your gut – and therefore your health. Of course, you have to make sure that your dog isn’t sick or allergic.
However, other than a few explanations such as increased physical activity and increased impact of the microbiome, there is no clear reason why dogs help evert heart disease.
Many experts, although not involved with the research, have expressed their views on the matter.
Dr. Rachael Bond, Associate Director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said: “It may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events.”
Although she will not be prescribing a dog as a medical treatment for a patient, she will, however, highlight the advantages and benefits of owning one.
It’s clear that bring a man’s best friend is in a dog’s genes. A report in the journal Sciences Advances pointed out a change in genes that relate to social behavior in dogs.
Monique Udell, co-author of the report and animal scientist at Oregon State University said: “This new evidence would suggest that dogs instead have a genetic condition that can lead to an exaggerated motivation to seek social contact compared with wolves.”
Researchers tested 18 domesticated dogs and 10 captive grey wolves and found variations in two genes. The GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 are the genes that are connected to a dog’s hyper-sociability and the base of domestication that separates them from the wolves.
“We haven’t found a ‘social gene’, but rather an important (genetic) component that shapes animal personality and assisted the process of domesticating a wild wolf into a tame dog,” said a statement by co-author Bridgett von Holdt, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University.
Fall said that their “Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death” – a nationwide cohort study” is not fully conclusive as there are various factors to be considered.
One of the most important factors that were excluded in the study was the owner’s personality and their general physical health and activity.
Furthermore, the study excluded patients diagnosed with heart conditions and disabled people. While they are not unlikely to own a dog, their participation did influence the study results.
“There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health,” he said. “Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalizable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership.”
Still, he believes that this scenario will be applicable to many countries including the U.S due to the similar attitude towards dogs and common breed popularity.
Another important factor that may affect the results is the difference in climate. Sweden is cold compared to many states in the U.S. It’s natural that the Swedish enjoy taking their dog out for a nice walk.
Back in 2013, the American Heart Association already stated that owning a dog will have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The Swedish study just follows up and “aimed to clarify the Association.”
Not only that, in 2002, two American universities showed that dog owners have lower stress levels than those without.