Adopt A Pet This Year for Better Health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Pet therapy has many applications toward good health. Our animal friends offer much, but often, such a simple approach to better health is missed. It's common to find cats and dogs in assisted living facilities. Patients with Alzheimer's disease experience reduced periods of agitation and aggression with pet therapy.

Exercise has huge benefits. Walking the dog, throwing a Frisbee, or playing catch with your companion are wonderful activities for overall health and well-being. Studies show that social interactions, associated with pet ownership can provide relief of mental stress, providing better blood pressure control.

Pets can help our children. According to a cohort study published in the April 30 online issue of the British Medical Journal:

"Contrary to the common belief that infectious diseases early in life may protect against the development of allergic diseases, the risk of atopic dermatitis in this cohort increased with each infectious disease before age six months (rate ratio [RR], 1.08, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04 - 1.13).

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In contrast, the risk of atopic dermatitis decreased with each additional exposure to three or more siblings, day care, pet ownership, and farm residence. This protective effect persisted after adjusting for number of infectious diseases, suggesting that it is established independently and very early in life, according to the authors."

According to another study, "Considerable evidence links psychosocial factors such as depression, anxiety, life stress, social isolation, and lack of pet ownership- to coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality and sudden cardiac death (SCD)".

Sometimes we forget that simple things in life can really help improve our health. Helping others - animals and humans - can lead to better mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation - "Helping other people or looking after a pet can make us feel useful and needed. It may also give structure to our daily routine".

Pets really can do much for health and well being. Consider the above, and give some thought to adopting or helping a pet -it's truly a boost toward better health.

Animals have already suffered through contributions in the laboratory aimed at curing disease. It's time to re-think the role that animals play in facilitating the health of humans. We really should give something back.

References:
http://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/11641292
Nonpharmacologic Management of Agitated Behaviours Associated with Dementia
Early Exposure to Other Children, Animals Protects Against Atopic Dermatitis
Relationship of Depression, Anxiety, and Social Isolation to Chronic Heart Failure Outpatient Mortality

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