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Dr. Scott Sandeman

Dr. Scott Sandeman

While we have always believed owning pets is good for the soul, researchers in Sweden have documented that owning a dog is truly good for the heart in more ways than one.

Dr. Tove Fall, a scientist and leader of a team at Uppsala University in Sweden, have studied some of the pet-owning population in her native country to see what effect dog ownership can have on preventing cardiovascular disease.

What they found is that dog owners have a 23 percent reduced risk of death from any cause and a 20 percent decrease in heart disease versus the non-dog owning general population. The benefits are even more dramatic for pet owners who live alone. For those individuals, owning a dog decreased the risk of death by 33 percent during the study period.

Why these substantial benefits? Dr. Tove and researchers have concluded that "loneliness and a sedentary lifestyle are the two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and mortality, but are notoriously difficult to prevent in the general population".

The prescription for this, they have concluded, may be a dog that provides interaction and social support and requires daily walks that increase physical activity.

Whether these results are, or can be, duplicated in the United States remains to be seen. It’s also unlikely that your cardiac specialist will start suggesting a goldendoodle to combat arteriosclerosis, so taking your statin is still advised.

But to us believers, it’s simply another reason to love your pet and further confirmation that we get more than we give. Science seems to continue to back up the emotional and physical benefits of sharing your home with a pet. Now may be a good time to visit your local shelter. It might just be what the doctor ordered.

Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to papertrained@ mchsi.com. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

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