WELLNESS--Everyone knows a dog is a man's best friend, but if someone told you that having a dog could decrease your chance of heart disease by 36% and reduce your chance of premature death by 33% would you believe it?
A new study published in Nature.com followed about 3.5 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 over a 12 year period and they have proven dogs are indeed a life extender. They scientifically confirmed that single people living with a dog have a reduced risk of death by heart disease, and multi-people households living with a dog also have lower risk of heart disease along with all forms of death.
While the results were positive across the board regardless of the living situation, people living alone benefit the most. The theory behind this is thought to be due to a reduced loneliness and isolation. People with dogs tend to get out and walk more and at the same time they become more involved in their communities and are therefore less isolated. Depression and loneliness have long been linked to heart disease, and having a dog has now been proven to reduce both.
Of course, there are links that are difficult to prove. The researchers recognize that there may also be a “type” of person that is more likely to want to own a dog, and that maybe that personality type is less likely to isolate in general.
It was just a few years back that the studies started coming out about the microbiome of dogs and how they affect humans. One study showed that people that have dogs in the house when they have babies lower the child's risk of developing allergies and asthma.
They believe this is due to the fact that the extra bacteria that the dog brings into the child's microbiome teaches the baby's immune system to be stronger.
In one study only 16% of the bacteria found in a dog's microbiome were also found in humans. The other 74% of the dogs bacteria was specific to the dog and therefore new to the human. We know through research that when it comes to our bodies microbiome or probiotics, variety is the key. By adding a dog to the household we add a huge amount of new bacterial species to the human body and in turn boost the immunity of the human.
More studies still need to be done, it appears unquestionable that owning a dog can only help improve quality of life while extending a person’s lifespan. The heart connection that dog owners have with their pet seems to be unique to any other pet. Dogs have learned how to detect what their owners are feeling and can respond in a way that no other domesticated animal has been able to. Dogs really are a person's best friend.
(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR )