Every now and then, a study will come along to point out that something you've always loved is also really good for your health. For instance, chocolate is a delicious food that many people feel guilty about eating. However, studies have shown that there's health benefits to eating dark chocolate. This is in large part because it contains flavanols, which can help lower blood pressure or cholesterol.
What else do we really love that's now proven to be good for us? Well...
Other studies have praised the virtues of consuming small amounts of wine or coffee every day. But just like with chocolate, you also need to keep an eye on portion size with these drinks. But in any case, it's always nice to know that something you love can also be good for you.
But there was another recent study about something people love that also provides great health benefits. And in this case, portion size likely isn't an issue. The study says you may be improving your health that by simply owning a dog.
Now a new study has been released by Uppsala University in Sweden. And this time, they had a treasure trove of data to choose from. Sweden's public health system allowed them access to hospital visit data, and the researchers were able to cross-reference that with Sweden's database of dog owners.
After crunching the numbers, the researchers got some clear results. For starters, they found that owning a dog does, in fact, lower your risk of cardiovascular death. The risk went down by 36% for people living alone, and by 15% for people in multi-person households.
Another health benefit of owning a dog is reducing your risk of a heart attack. The study found that dog owners lowered their risk of a heart attack by 11%. In this case, it was the same rate for people living alone and for people in multi-person households.
Part of the reason owning a dog may be good for you is because it makes you active. Taking your dog for a walk or playing with them means that you are getting at least some degree of exercise. And since you're doing it while playing with your dog, it's often more fun than going to the gym.
The study also suggested that owning a dog helps you live longer by building up your immunity. They said that, since a dog might track dirt into your home or lick your face, it helps with the owners microbiome, or the bacteria in your gut. In this case, it might be wise to encourage your dog to be as messy as possible when it comes back into the house.
Owning a dog may also positively impact your health simply by being your pal. Having too much stress can increase your risk of cardiac arrest or cardiovascular disease. Having a furry friend around can reduce your stress level, and decrease that risk.
In addition, the total health benefit of owning a dog could be affected by the climate that you live in. Tove Fall, another author of the study, said that "[w]e have a colder climate (in Sweden) so we have indoor dogs where owners take their dogs out for a walk. In warmer climates, they could keep them in the yard and won't have to actively take them for a walk."
However, if you've been looking for a reason to get a dog, the potential health benefits are the perfect excuse. You get to enjoy the company of a dog, AND you get to possibly live a longer life? Sounds like a "can't lose" situation.