(CNN/Gray News) – Want to live longer? Add a dog to your life.
A recent University of Toronto study published in the journal Circulation shows dog owners had a 24% lower risk of dying early.
The news was even better for people who had already had a heart attack or stroke.
"For those people, having a dog was even more beneficial,” said Dr. Caroline Kramer, the lead author of the review of more than 60 years of global research. “They had a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease."
Researchers analyzed data from 4 million people in six countries.
Heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to people who did not own a dog. Stroke survivors living alone had a 27% reduced risk.
A major factor could be pet owners who walk their dogs got up to 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Studies also show petting dogs can reduce blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
"One study, my favorite, found just the effect of petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure as much as a medication," Kramer said.
Some doctors even prescribe a dog for their patients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sees the health value in dog ownership.
“Dogs not only provide comfort and companionship, but several studies have found that dogs decrease stress and promote relaxation,” the CDC says. “Dogs have positive impacts on nearly all life stages.”