Being a pet owner has its benefits

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Dr. Janet Seabrook

By Dr. Janet Seabrook

A little over a week ago, we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Community HealthNet Health Centers. It was both wonderful and humbling to see so many supporters come together at our Gala, which was held at the Gary/Chicago International Airport in the Sage-Popovich Hangar. We capped off the 20th anniversary weekend by partnering with Michelle Robin-
son of Cause 4 Paws to present our first-ever “Pet and People Health Fair.” Participants received healthy information for themselves as well as their four-legged friends. This successfully unique event inspired me to write a column about some of the potential health benefits that pet owners enjoy. Take a look:

  1. Decreases Stress – Several studies, including one from the State University of New York at Buffalo, reveal that pet ownership can possibly reduce stress. Many subjects in the study experienced less stress when around their pets than when around a spouse, family members or other loved ones. This could be attributed to a pet’s ability to just be there without judgement or an opinion.
  2. Lowers Blood Pressure – According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), owning a pet potentially lowers blood pressure, particularly in hypertensive and high-risk patients. This notion relates back to the decrease in stress as stated above. The steady companionship a pet provides often results in a relaxing environment, which can lead to a decrease in one’s blood pressure.
  3. Lowers Cholesterol – The CDC also reports that having a furry friend may also lower cholesterol, particularly in men. It has also been found that pet owners have lower triglyceride levels. However, it isn’t clear whether the pet’s presence decreases cholesterol, or if those who maintain a healthier lifestyle are more often pet owners. No matter the case, there are definite benefits to your heart’s health.
  4. Improves Mood – Many pet owners also enjoy mental health benefits. The joyful interaction with pets can play a role with how you feel and socialize with others. There’s nothing like coming home from a long day and being greeted by a pet that’s always happy to see you. Dogs are even being used at some veteran’s hospitals to help soldiers cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
  5. Helps Prevent Strokes – Believe it or not, some studies have shown that pets can help prevent strokes. According to Marty Becker, DVM, veterinary consultant and author of the book Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, both dog and cat owners are less likely to suffer a stroke. “If you have a cat, you’re 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack, and you’re 40 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular incident like a stroke,” says Dr. Becker.

There are, of course, many other health benefits to pet ownership including prevention of allergies, increase in immunity and emotional development in children. Taking care of our “fur babies” undoubtedly comes with great responsibility, but as you can see, the returns of welcoming a pet into your family can be great!

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