Owning a dog could reduce your risk of death after suffering a heart attack, study shows

We love our dogs for companionship, but a new study looked at more than 180,000 people between the ages of 40 and 85 who had previously suffered a heart attack or stroke.

Results showed dog owners, who lived alone, had a 33 percent reduced risk of death when compared with people who suffered a heart attack and lived alone without a dog.

"What they found was that those dog owners actually had a lower risk of having recurrent cardiovascular events," said Cleveland Clinic Dr. Luke Laffin. 

He says the relationship between dog ownership and heart health makes sense. Dogs typically have to go for walks, which gets you out the door and moving, which is good for heart health.

Dogs also provide companionship, so it's possible that dog owners have less loneliness. Previous studies show depression and loneliness can increase the risk of heart disease.

But if you can't own a dog, don't worry. Dr. Laffin says people can still mimic the benefits of owning one for the sake of their heart health.

"They can go out for regular physical activity, maybe a walk, jog; even classes like yoga, swimming. Those are all great activities that you don't need a pet to do."

Dr. Laffin says getting more physical activity on a regimented schedule can go a long way towards better heart health and longevity.

Complete results of the study can be found in the journal Circulation.