Home Cardiovascular Disease Stroke or heart attack? Living alone? Get a dog.

Stroke or heart attack? Living alone? Get a dog.


If you live alone and you are a heart attack or stroke survivor, you have less risk of an early death if you own a dog, according to the American Heart Association.

Previous studies have shown that having a dog alleviates social isolation in people who live alone. Then there’s the physical factor – owning a dog increases physical activity, lowers blood pressure and improves heart health. These were the findings of the American Heart Association in 2013. Now a new specific study plus a meta-analysis have taken these conclusions further.

The first study (1) took patients who had had a stroke or heart attack and were between the ages of 40-85 from the Swedish National Health Register.

Patients after hospitalisation, who had a dog

  • Had a 33% lower risk of another heart attack if living alone and 15% lower if living with a partner or child.
  • Had a 27% lower risk of another stroke if living alone and 12% lower if living with a partner or child.

Professor Tove Fall of Uppsala University felt that reducing social isolation and increasing physical activity, as were seen before, were the primary benefits.

182,000 people were included who had a had a heart attack and 155,000 who had had a stroke. Dog ownership was 6% and 5% respectively.

The second study (2) was a systematic review and meta-analysis which looked at 10 studies – nine on overall survival amongst dog owners and four on cardiovascular survival amongst dog owners.

Compared to non-owners, dog owners showed

  • A 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality;
  • A 65% reduced risk of mortality after heart attack;
  • A 31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues.

In summary, according to Assistant Professor Caroline Kramer of Toronto Medical School, these results are consistent with previous studies. Having a dog is associated with increased physical exercise, lowered blood pressure, and a better cholesterol profile.

Go to: Exercise is a drug that can increase survival


  1. Mwenya Mubanga, Liisa Byberg, Agneta Egenvall, Erik Ingelsson, Tove Fall. Dog Ownership and Survival After a Major Cardiovascular Event. October 2019
  2. Dog Ownership and survival – a systematic review andmeta-analysis. October 2019