Pets & Your Health
Research suggests that cat owners – past and present – are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack and 40 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who don’t share their homes with feline companions. The same study showed a trend toward increased risk for death due to cardiovascular diseases among participants who never had cats. In addition, a number of investigations have shown that caring for a pet can lower cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides, all risk factors for heart attacks. Here’s another little-known fact about the benefit of having companion animals: military veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder, are encouraged to adopt a pet when returning to civilian life. The experience can help relieve stress, depression, loneliness and anxiety, and by adopting a rescue pet from a shelter, the veteran may be saving its life. The organization Pets for Vets facilitates the adoptions and trains the pets. For kids, having pets present can lower the chances of developing allergies related to their home environment by 33 percent.
My take? There’s no doubt that sharing your home with a dog or cat can have a positive impact on health. Research has shown that pet owners have less illness, recover faster from serious health conditions, and tend to be more content than people who do not care for companion animals. As for the impact of comfort animals on stress, some studies have shown a benefit for patients who have experienced trauma or suffer from post-traumatic-stress disorder. A 2015 review of 10 studies published earlier concluded that comfort animals (primarily dogs and horses) reduced anxiety, PTSD symptoms and depression, but the authors concluded that more research is needed to establish effectiveness.
Adnan I. Qureshi et al, “Cat ownership and the Risk of Fatal Cardiovascular Diseases. Results from the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study Mortality Follow-up Study.” Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, January 2009.
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