A recent study published by an American Heart Association found a significant link between dog ownership and longer life, particularly with regard to heart health.

To volunteers at the Aiken County Animal Shelter, that information is no surprise.

"Here, we see a lot of people come to us with different kinds of health issues," said Kathy Jacobs, programs coordinator for Friends of the Animal Shelter. "People with anxiety, people with PTSD, and we have autistic children who come here. With animals, there's really a bond with a dog or a cat."

Jacobs said animals can help "fill a void in people." 

"I think having an animal calms you and makes you feel loved, especially if you live alone," Jacobs said. "I can definitely see that."

The study, which was published in "Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes" (a journal of the American Heart Association) studied the mortality rate of dog owners versus non-dog owners. All people in the study had previously suffered from a heart attack or ischemic stroke and lived alone.

Researchers found that dog owners in the study had a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and 31% reduced risk of death by heart attack or stroke compared to those without dogs.

This study builds on previous research done by the American Heart Association that found a correlation between pet ownership and reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

These studies indicate that dog ownership reduces isolation, increases physical activity and lowers blood pressure – all of which are factors in cardiovascular health.

Over 50% of the Aiken-Augusta area has high blood pressure, according to the CSRA American Heart Association.

On Nov. 2, FOTAS will be celebrating 10 years of partnership with the Aiken County Animal Shelter. FOTAS will be holding a 10th anniversary party at the shelter from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the public is invited to attend.

Dogs who were previously adopted out of the shelter are welcome at the event. There will be a photo booth, treats and $10 adoption specials on dogs at the shelter, which are normally $35.

For more info, contact the Aiken County Animal Shelter at 803-642-1537.

The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare also adopts out cats and dogs. The center is located at 199 Willow Run Road. Call 803-648-6863 for more info. 

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.