Having a pet can mean a healthier, happier life

SAN DIEGO – Rather than heading to the pharmacy for solutions to common ailments, a majority of people may be able to stop at the nearest pet store or animal shelter and find a furry remedy instead. Studies that link positive health benefits to pet ownership abound.

According to WebMD, one study found that 48 stockbrokers who adopted a pet experienced lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did people who did not own pets.

Here are some of the many ways that pet ownership can be good for your health.

• Lower blood pressure: Petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure, as can watching a fish swim around a tank. Those with hypertension may want to purchase or adopt a companion animal to help lower their blood pressure.

• Reduce stress: Stress is something people face on a daily basis. Research has indicated that when people spend time with a pet their levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, is lowered while their level of serotonin, a hormone associated with improved mood and well-being, is increased.

• Lower cholesterol: Lifestyle factors associated with pet ownership, particularly a focus on increased physical health and activity, can help lower cholesterol levels.

• Fight depression: Many therapists have prescribed pet therapy as a method to alleviating and recovering from depression. A pet is an unconditional friend and can provide that listening ear a person needs to talk through problems.

• Reduce stroke incidences: There has been evidence that cat owners are less likely to suffer strokes than people who do not have cats. Researchers are not sure of the connection, but surmise that cats have a more calming nature than other types of pets.

• Greater opportunities for socialization: Humans are social animals and need to interact with others. Pet owners have a tendency to want to share time and experiences with other pet owners. 

• Reduce propensity for allergies: Children who grow up in homes with cats and dogs are less likely to develop common allergies and even asthma, research suggests.

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