Want a healthier heart? Get a puppy

"It's not so easy to combine dogs with an active work life and they aren't always allowed in places, so the study could help us to understand that dogs are really important for their owners, and for example be more understanding if someone's dog passes away". "If you have a dog you neutralise the effects of living alone".

Fall, who owns a five-month-old puppy, and her colleagues were even able to pin down which dog breeds had the strongest association with reduced risk. Dogs can alleviate psychosocial stress, depression and loneliness, according to the study, all of which are stressors that can encourage coronary heart disease, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality.

A new study, published today in Scientific Reports, finds that dog ownership is linked to reduced risk of heart attack-and a longer life.

People who live alone have been shown previously to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular death.

The scientists followed 3.4 million people over the course of 12 years and found that adults who live alone and owned a dog were 33 percent less likely to die during the study than adults who lived alone without dogs. The investment, though, may be worth it. Dog ownership, new research shows, is a form of natural insurance offering health and longevity, along with the affection of an animal companion.

The study also says that having a dog increases people's motivation to be more active and add more physical activity into their lives, especially in single-person households where the individuals are exclusively responsible for walking and exercising with their pets.

The findings also suggest increased social well-being and immune system development as additional reasons why dog ownership offers protection against cardiovascular disease and death.

"We know that dog owners, in general, have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results", Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and a professor at Uppsala University, told ABC News. That would be a tough study to pull off since you would have to take a random set of people, give some of them dogs, and see who died first.

The study can not explain how dogs have a health-boosting impact, but the company alone may reduce stress and motivate people to live healthier lifestyles.

When it came to breeds, canines originally bred for hunting-like terriers, retrievers and scent hounds-were associated with a lower risk of CVD.

The effect also varies across different breed groups, according to the study's findings, with owners of larger, more active breeds drawing the most health benefits from their canine pals.

  • Valerie Cook