They are not just dogs or cats.
They are not just cute, cuddly, and a great companion.
A dog or a cat also makes a human--the owner—enjoy many physical and emotional benefits.
In Health Benefits of Owning A Pet, the staff of the site Curiosity Makes You Smarter shares:
1. Petting a dog or a cat lowers blood pressure.
2. When you play with a pet, this reduces the level of cortisol, which is the stress hormone
3. Playing with a dog or a cat also boosts the “happy chemical” called serotonin
4. An owner’s cholesterol level is lowered when you walk your dog, an activity that your dog needs.
5. Studies showed pet owners take 15-20 per cent fewer annual visits to a doctor.
There are other benefits, says Jeannie Lerche Davis in WebMD’s 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health.
“A pet is certainly a great friend. After a difficult day, pet owners quite literally feel the love. In fact, for nearly 25 years, research has shown that living with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. They can even help you get dates, “ Davis says.
Researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology says numerous studies have suggested that kids have less risk of developing allergies and asthma while growing up in a home with a dog, a cat or any animal in a farm
“In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment,” Davis says.
A child who lives in a home with a dog is also less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching, Gern shares.
The same child has higher levels of some immune system chemicals which means the child has a stronger immune system activation.
"Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system," Gern says.
“Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking -- a dog is a natural conversation starter,” Davis says.
Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, says having a conversation about dogs “helps ease people out of social isolation or shyness.”
"People ask about breed, they watch the dog's tricks," Kaslow says. "Sometimes the conversation stays at the 'dog level,' sometimes it becomes a real social interchange."
Dogs for the Aged
Alzheimer’s patients with a dog at home have less anxious outbursts as shown by studies, says Lynette Hart, PhD, associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
"Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog," says Hart.
A dog provides companionship and exercise for the elderly who can still walk a dog or care for one.
“One insurance company, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio, asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening -- which often helps tip the scales in their favor,” Davis reveals.
Good for Mind and Soul
An AIDS patient is less likely to have depression if he or she has a pet.
"The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets," says researcher Judith Siegel, PhD.
One study also showed that stockbrokers who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure during stressful situations than persons without pets.
When a person is stressed out, he or she gets into a state of dis-ease wherein “harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system,” says Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health.
Justice adds that studies have shown a link between these chemicals and plaque buildup in arteries, which can lead to a heart disease.
“Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine -- nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties,” Justice says.
Justice adds: "People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature."
Good for the Heart
A person who has a pet and has had a heart attack survives longer than a person without a pet, studies showed.
“Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease -- lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels -- than non-owners,” based on researchers’ works, Davis says.
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