Ongoing studies: pets improve human health |

Ongoing studies: pets improve human health

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

Research continues to prove that pet keeping offers bona fide health benefits. Pet guardians go to the doctor less and recover from illness faster. At least one insurance company screens applicants with a question about pets in the home. Those over age 75 get points for keeping a pet, indicating that the prospect is staying active and alert. Skeptical? The Lake Tahoe Lifestyle Festival on Sept. 8 will include a Lake Tahoe Humane Society booth staffed by dogs who can lower your blood pressure and help you stay young.-

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases officially listed Health Benefits of Pets: Pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. Pets can increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and for socialization.

The National Institutes for Health held a meeting of experts with the purpose of coming to consensus on the benefits of pet ownership and promoting ongoing studies. The proceedings included that “Those who own pets reap unexpected health and financial benefits (from lower health care costs) in addition to enjoying the companionship of the family cat or dog.”

Pets help lower blood pressure. People with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations (Dr. Karen Allen, State University of New York, Buffalo).

Pets help reduce stress. Studies worldwide show that the impact of a stressful situation is less on pet owners, especially males (Josephine M. Wills, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, United Kingdom). Dogs at work are a growing presence as they help create a less stressful, more productive environment (Randolph Barker, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business).

Pets help prevent heart disease. Pets may provide their owners with greater psychological stability, a measure of protection from heart disease (National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health Benefits of Pets).

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Pets help fight depression, loneliness. Pets promote an interest in life. Their bonding behavior fosters a sense of security (Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship).

Pets help prevent allergies and asthma. When children grow up with animals, infants develop a stronger immune system and children are less likely to develop pet allergies. (James Gern, MD, Pediatrician, University of Wisconsin)

Pets help replace drugs. Interacting with a pet elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine, producing the same pleasurable, calming effect sought with harmful drugs (Blair Justice, Ph.D., University of Texas School of Public Health).

Pets help promote kindness. Caring for pets nurtures compassion for all living creatures, creating a better quality of life for humans and animals. On Sept. 8, stop by the humane society booth at the Lake Tahoe Lifestyle Festival to improve your health on the spot.

– Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and S.P.C.A. to help “Keep Tahoe Kind”. Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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