The Health Benefits of Owning a Pet: by Michael Durrant

Health Benefits of Pets
“(pet) ownership may offer many health benefits…pet ownership decreases visits for medical care among the elderly, increases longevity among heart attack survivors, and is associated with improved health status among persons with disabilities” Dr. Seigel, UCLA School of Public Health

Introduction: Most people in the United States have at least one pet. While pets are considered dirty and high maintenance, pets are know to bring about many positive changes in the health of the people around them. In a series or internet articles titled "Healthy Pets, Healthy People" released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) some of the top Epidemiologist and Pubic Health officials in the country document the known correlations between pet ownership and overall health. Some of the health benefits enjoyed by pet owners around the world include: decreased incidence of hypertension, lower cholesterol levels, lower overall triglyceride levels and fewer reported feelings of loneliness. The presence of pets can increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities and allowed for reduced tension in social situations. Many groups including the CDC, the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) support the health benefits of pet ownership. You can learn more about the health benefits of pets by reading the following information and the researching links provided. Flat Coated Retriever: "Bear"

Decreased Risk and Severity of Heart Disease:
Heart disease is a growing concern for many people across America, as the average age of the US citizen rises and the obesity and diabetes rates increase Americas are suffering form heart disease now more than ever. Pet ownership also greatly decreases the likelihood of a heart attack or other fatal heart diseases. Something so simple as a cuddly kitten could very well save your life. Pet ownership has been linked to an increase in the odds for survival in persons who have had a heart attack. One in fifteen of theses non-pet owners are expected to die form cardiovascular related symptoms while pet owner boast odds closer to one in eighty seven. While acknowledging that pet ownership is only one of a multitude of variables that influence this common disease any kind of improvement in the rick factors and severity of heart disease must be hailed as significant. This data obtained from Physical & Medical Health Benefits of Pets, produced by the Veterinary Services Department, written by Drs. Foster & Smith.

Lower Cholesterol Levels:
It may be assumed that there is a general weak correlations between “healthiness” and pet owner ship; but this is not the case. In studies by the CDC it was shown that pet ownership has a direct inverse relationship with the levels of LDL or low-density lipoprotein in the blood stream and. It was also shown that dog ownership specifically has also been directly correlated to a reduction in triglycerides levels. A reduction in the levels of triglycerides results in a greatly reduced risk of many heart related issues.

Overall Moods Improvement: Research supports the mood-enhancing benefits of pets. A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet. (According to a press release, men with AIDS who did not own a pet were about three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than men who did not have AIDS. But men with AIDS who had pets were only about 50 percent more likely to report symptoms of depression, as compared to men in the study who did not have AIDS.) Data obtained from The Health Benefits of Owning a Pet by Elizabeth Scott, M.S Flat Coat Retriever, "Rudy"

Decrease Hypertension and Reported Stress Levels: In a blood pressure study conducted on the group of Wall Street stockbrokers it was shown that pet ownership can contribute to less overall reported stress and lower average blood pressure. Women undergoing stress testing, have demonstrated that the presence of a dog had more of an effect on lowering blood pressure than the presence of friends. When interviewed eight of ten people indicated that they would rather have their pet with them than their best friend of faced with a test problem that they were having trouble with. Further studies actually showed a slight improvement in test scores when people had their pets present. In addition, children who did not have a pet present during a physical examination with a physician yielded higher heart rate, higher blood pressure, and exhibited more signed of behavioral distress than when the dog was present during their examination.

Improved Social Interactions and Reduction of Loneliness: In many social situation, such as walking a dog, having a pet with us can make us more approachable and give people an accessible conversation piece when stopping to talk or pet the dog. These interactions increase the number of people that we are exposed to on a daily basis and provide an opportunity to increase our network of friends and acquaintances. Interestingly, it has been found that elderly people with larger friend-networks have more apparent stress management benefits. While owning a pet isn’t for everyone, as they require additional work and responsibility; in many cases the various documented health and social benefits of having a pet outweigh the potential drawbacks. If you haven't already, make sure you thank your pet today.

Related Links:
American Veterinary Medical Association - Animal Therapy Programs
NIH Consensus Development Program
CDC Health Benefits Link
Pudue University School of Veterinary Medicine - Article Page

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