CBS Local — Looking for the secret to a longer life and a healthy heart? A new study in Sweden says owning a dog is the best medicine for cardiovascular health, especially if you’re single.

Researchers from Uppsala University have released the results of a 12-year study that followed over 3.4 million Swedish adults, looking at their heart health and risks for heart disease. According to the findings, Swedes who owned a four-legged friend were found to have a lower risk of death and decreased chance of cardiovascular disease.

The report revealed that the health benefits of having a dog in your life were even more pronounced in people who were single or living alone. “Single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to single non-owners,” said researcher Mwenya Mubanga in a press release.

The scientists added that owners of dogs who were originally bred for hunting, like terriers and retrievers, were found to have the lowest rates of heart disease among the group of 40 to 80-year-olds examined.

“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation… Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” epidemiologist Tove Fall added.

Along with the added exercise and happiness the Swedish study attributed to owning a pet, a 2002 study by two American universities found that pet owners also benefited from lower stress levels compared to people without a furry companion.

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