We already know they make our lives better. Now, we know they make us healthier, too.

A study out this week in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, published by the American Heart Association, finds new evidence that dog ownership is linked with longer lives in their owners.

The analysis of 10 previous studies published between 1950 and May 2019 included approximately 3.8 million participants. Researchers found that dog owners saw a 31 percent decrease in deaths due to heart attack or stroke compared to dog non-owners, and those with pre-existing cardiovascular issues experienced a 65 percent reduction in premature death.

Experts believe the longevity associated with having a furry friend may be linked to an overall increase in physical activity. For example, those who walk their dogs at least 20 or 30 minutes per day are already meeting the American Heart Association’s recommendation for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. They also speculate that dog owners may tend to live healthier lifestyles by also drinking and smoking less, which previous studies have shown.

“Having a dog was associated with increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports,” said Dr. Caroline Kramer, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and an endocrinologist with Mount Sinai Hospital, adding that the results are “very positive.”

Kramer, a dog owner herself, says she hopes this study will lead to others evaluating the psychological and social benefits of owning a dog, too.

She added, “I can say that adopting Romeo” — her miniature Schnauzer — “has increased my steps and physical activity each day, and he has filled my daily routine with joy and unconditional love.”