The Serious Health Benefits to Owning A Pet
That pile of hair on your couch and the chewed up shoe on the floor might add to your daily chores, but unless you have serious allergies, owning a pet is one of the best things you can do for your health. Can’t be exposed to a certain type of dander or prefer a low-maintenance pet? You can still reap the rewards of pet ownership. Both dogs and cats offer similar health benefits, and even reptiles and fish can help put you in the best health of your life.
Worried owning a pet might cause your child to develop allergies? Think again. Research suggests that exposure to pet dander early in life makes it less likely that the body will treat it as a dangerous pathogen. This reduces a child’s chances of developing allergies. Perhaps even better, exposure to pet hair can help activate a child’s immune system, reducing their vulnerability to a host of ailments.
New and Old Friends
Pets are great social lubricants. From chatting up people you meet at the dog park to commiserating with other lizard or bird owners online, pet ownership gives you something to talk about. It’s a reason to start interaction and activities with other people. This isn’t just a convenience or something that can help you get a date, either. Loneliness is a serious hurdle to good health, and people who have a wide social network report better mental and physical health.
Better Mental Health
Pets offer myriad mental health benefits. People who own dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations. Playing with a pet has been shown to elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine—two brain chemicals that, when absent, can result in depression and anxiety. People who own dogs and cats are less likely to report mental health woes such as anxiety and depression, even when they have chronic or terminal illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. Pets also offer a more indirect mental health benefit: many pet owners are more active because of their pets. After all, if your dog needs a walk or your cat wants to play a game of chase, it’s hard to say no. This extra dose of exercise benefits both your mental and physical health.
A Healthier Heart
The exercise pets offer can help lower blood pressure while aiding you in controlling your weight, but the benefits don’t end there. One study found that heart attack patients who owned a pet lived longer than those who did not. Another found that pet owners have lower “bad” cholesterol levels than non-pet owners. There’s even evidence that pet ownership can lower blood pressure. Pets tend to lower stress and improve mental health, and they can also reduce stress to your heart.
Fewer Doctor’s Visits
Seniors who own pets make 30% fewer doctor’s visits than those who don’t. And Alzheimer’s patients who own dogs or cats are less likely to report high levels of anxiety. This suggests that pets provide needed companionship that may help soothe the minds of anxious seniors. It could also show that pet ownership improves chronic health conditions, necessitating fewer medical trips.
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