We’ve got good news if you want a puppy for Christmas, but your partner just isn’t that into the idea.
A new study by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden found that bringing a new little furball into your life can improve your heart health, especially if you live alone. The reason: A dog forces you into more activity — he needs walks, after all! Little Fido also gives you some much-needed social interaction if you live alone.
“A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household,” lead study author Mwenya Mubanga, a doctoral student in the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden, said in a statement.
For the study, Mubanga and team used data from the Sweden’s Register of the Total Population to evaluate the heart health of more than 3.4 million Swedes between 40 and 80 years old over 12 years (from 2001 to 2013).
The results? Dog owners — especially dog owners who lived alone — had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Even more interesting: Owners of breeds like terriers, retrievers and scent hounds were even less likely to develop heart disease.
“Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households,” Mubanga said in the statement. “The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease during follow-up compared to single non-owners.”
There are some limitations to the data, though.
“There might … be differences between [dog] 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,” Tove Fall, senior study author and associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University, said in the statement.
While that might be true, there are enough other benefits to dog ownership to make it worth it. Dog owners are shown to be less depressed and make friends easier, according to a recent study. The reason? It gets you out into the community — and you’re more likely to talk to other dog owners.
“Dog owners in particular tend to be a little more extroverted, or outgoing” Kay Joubert, Director Companion Animal Services at PAWS, told The Huffington Post.
“When you start to engage them about their companion animal, people tend to open up and really blossom. They want to share stories about their favorite friend.”
Another small study found that people who walked dogs five times a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds over a year, which also helps heart health.
So go ahead, get that dog. Your heart — and your waistline — will thank you.