Want to live longer? Get a dog

Somebody should forward this information to Bernie Sanders. He could probably use it.

I don’t think this will come as all that much of a surprise, but two separate medical studies released this week have concluded that people who own dogs are less likely to die early. The phenomenon is particularly pronounced in people who have suffered a heart attack. Those in that situation who own dogs were 33% less likely to die in the first year following their cardiac event. (NBC News)

Dog owners live longer and fare better after a heart attack or stroke compared with those who have no canine companions, two studies published Tuesday suggest.

Researchers found that dog ownership was associated with a 24-percent reduced risk of death from any cause among the general public, and a 33 percent lower risk of death among heart attack survivors who live alone, according to the reports, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The new studies are “interesting and provocative,” said Dr. Haider Warraich, director of the heart failure program at the Boston VA Healthcare System, an instructor at the Harvard Medical School and author of “State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science and Future of Heart Disease.”

I was able to guess the suspected reasons cited for these results before even reading them, as I’m sure many of you will be also. The most obvious one is that people who get at least some exercise on a regular basis tend to live longer and have fewer heart problems. Dog owners have to get up and down all the time to let their pet outside, take it for walks, play fetch, etc. I know that I would certainly be doing less walking without my beagle being around.

Another factor that’s a bit more subtle is the issue of loneliness and stress. Those things can lead to health issues also, not to mention depression. Dogs are boon companions who are always glad to see you and engage with you emotionally. Just petting a dog has been shown to reduce blood pressure and relieve stress. Having a dog around every day seems like a natural boost to your health. Unless, of course, it’s a robot dog.

Notice how the study says nothing about cats. We have both (and have for years) so I feel qualified to make some comparisons here. To be clear, we love our cats. But it’s not always as obvious whether or not they actually love us in return. I’ve always felt like they “tolerate” us more than appreciate us. In fact, if they had opposable thumbs and could operate the can opener themselves, they’d probably try to get rid of us.

And then there’s the way they constantly wrap themselves around your ankles. Particularly near the top of the stairs. Are they being affectionate or actually trying to knock you down the steps? It’s still a mystery. But if cats actually led to you living a longer life it seems like these studies would have mentioned it.

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