5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health
Can a "pet" prescription lower your blood pressure? Owning a pet can ward off depression, lower blood pressure, and boost immunity. It may even improve your social life.
Good for Mind and Soul
Pet owners with AIDS are far less likely to suffer from
depression than those without pets. "The benefit is especially pronounced when
people are strongly attached to their pets," says researcher Judith Siegel,
In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted
a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did
people without pets.
People in stress mode get into a "state of dis-ease," in which
harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the
immune system, says Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor at the
University of Texas School of Public Health and author of Who Gets Sick: How
Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health.
Studies show a link between these chemicals and plaque buildup
in arteries, the red flag for heart disease, says Justice.
Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate
levels of serotonin and dopamine -- nerve transmitters that are known to have
pleasurable and calming properties, he tells WebMD.
"People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin
and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your
spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature," says
Justice, who recently hiked the Colorado Rockies with his wife and two
Good for the Heart
Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without,
according to several studies. Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease
-- lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels -- than non-owners, researchers