Pets are Good for Your Health


When Jennifer Eckerson rescued her dog Roscoe from a shelter a few years ago, she was looking for some protection. But she got a whole lot more.

“It can be difficult and he does need to get his exercise, but once you have him figured out, it’s not hard,” said Jennifer. “And it forces me to get up and go out.”

Studies show pets are good for our health. And as we age, doctors say a pet’s companionship can help ward off mental illness and other diseases.

In our thirties, exercise should be an important part of our everyday routine. And some pets are better than a treadmill. University of Missouri-Columbia researchers found when obese and sedentary people were given a dog, they lost an average of 14 pounds a year, without dieting.

“That dog or a cat, has to be walked, has to be groomed, and it gives us enormous cardiovascular advantages, but it's also a balm for our soul,” said Dr. Edward Creagan, an oncologist with Mayo Clinic.

With age, blood pressure numbers start to rise. Owning a cat, a dog, even a hamster can calm those nerves. Researchers at the State University of New York in Buffalo followed stockbrokers who were already taking medication for hypertension. Researchers noted that those who got a pet reduced, by half, the increase in their blood pressure numbers brought on by stress.

“They have a decrease in a stress hormone which is called cortisol,” said Dr. Creagan. “And they have a higher level in their blood stream of feel-good hormones like prolactin and isitosin. So when you groom that cat, you stroke that horse, something magical happens and that something can be measured it's clearly biological, not science fiction.”

And as we get older, pets can help us cope. Scientists have found that older patients who have pets are less likely to be depressed. They’re also more heart healthy.

Recent studies showed that those who were hospitalized with heart failure had better cardiac function when a dog visited them. In fact, anxiety levels dropped more if a pet was present than if a human volunteer came alone.

Dr. Cregan actually recommends pets for patients. “Many times I will put on a prescription pad, one cat, and one dog indefinite refills,” he said.

It’s no surprise to Jennifer Eckerson that Roscoe is good for her health. He makes her happy. She says his companionship and love will be priceless for years to come.

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