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Pets Do a Body Good

June 12, 2013

A survey by the American Heart Association found pet owners had lower blood pressure, handle stress better and had less incidence of death due to heart attacks. A large part of this positive effect was due to people walking their dogs and getting more exercise. Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without. Male pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-owners.

Pets help deal with stress. People in stress mode get into a state of “dis-ease” in which harmful chemicals can negatively affect their immune system.In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure in stressful situations. Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to elevate mood. Researchers found that interacting with a dog increases feelings of contentment and relaxation. Another survey found that 44 percent were also less worried about specific problems such as job security and finance.

One quarter of respondents described their dog as their best friend while one in six women said they confided their deepest thoughts only to their pets. Family walks with the dog were found to be a more effective means of spending quality time with the family than mealtimes or holidays.

Pets can improve the well being of the elderly. Walking or just caring for a pet can provide exercise and companionship. Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home. Caregivers feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog.

Pets help people live fulfilled lives.

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