We love our dogs; they’re steadfast, entertaining companions who show endless love and loyalty. And in addition to their general, all-around excellence, BBC News reports that a study shows owning dogs lowers your risk of an early death.

The study, published in Scientific Reportsshowed they dog ownership reduces cardiovascular risk through social support and motivation for physical activity. The Swedish study looked at single-person and multiple-person households, with information from 3.4 million adults from over a 12-year period. In particular, people who lived alone benefited from owning a dog, but there was a lowered risk of mortality for the general dog-owning population as well.

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According to the study’s lead author Mwenya Mugbanga, “The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of heart attack.”

Previous studies have shown that living alone increases your cardiovascular risk, so owning a dog may help mitigate that risk.

In addition to providing social support and motivation to stay active, dog may also provide a somewhat unexpected benefit – they may improve their owners’ microbiomes. The term microbiome refers to the bacteria living in your gut. Dogs change your environment, introducing their own microorganisms and such, which may affect your own microbiome in a positive way.

This study backs up a 2013 statement by the American Heart Association, which said that owning a dog was “probably associated” with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Obviously, the most important reason to own a dog is that you want to share your home with one of these lovable creatures. The fact that they may help you live longer is a wonderful side-benefit, though. Check out your local shelter or rescue to find your perfect heart-healthy companion!