Orlando, Fla. — If you live alone and are not allergic to dogs, as the Holiday Season approaches, these findings will give you more reasons to love Fido and maybe consider a new companion, as the best Christmas present you could ever get: New research suggests that having a dog might boost a single person’s life span.

That was the conclusion of a study conducted in Sweden, which tracked more than 3.4 million middle-aged and older persons, for 12 years. All were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study.

The researchers reported that dog owners who lived alone were 11 percent less likely to die of heart disease and a third less likely to die from any cause, compared with those who lived alone and didn’t have a dog.

The study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, but its lead researcher said there are many reasons why having a furry friend might help you stay in good health. One of them is the fact that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity.

Another reason is an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner. A person’s “bacterial microbiome” consists of the trillions of “good” microbes living within the body that help keep it healthy.

Experts in the United States agreed that the findings made sense. Stress relief through companionship has an inherent benefit to people’s overall health, so it is not surprising that dog owners display a lower risk of heart disease.

The responsibilities associated with dog ownership impose mandatory daily exercise — a schedule which cannot be impacted by adverse weather conditions, personal commitments or mood swings. You cannot find a way to skip it, unless you do hire someone to walk them, but then you would lose the opportunity to some healthy exercise plus the time that creates bonding between you and ‘your best friend’.

This could be very meaningful for single individuals since a prior research had shown that living alone raises the risk for heart disease.

Whatever the reasons behind the health benefit shown in this study, adopting a furry companion from a nearby shelter might be just what the doctor ordered.

According to the Director of Geriatric Care at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y., the findings of the largest ever investigation of the association between dog-ownership and human health should encourage all of us to add a four-legged friend in our family circle.

This holiday season, unless you are allergic to pets, there is no reason to be alone, one of these friendly companions might need your help and guess what; you might need their help too!

Here in Orlando you can find many non-profit organizations that would love to help you find the perfect companion. Some of those are:

Adopt a Pet Orange County Government

Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando

Orange County Animal Services

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.