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Pets may be the best thing for those with heart disease

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As purveyors of unconditional love, dogs and cats enhance anyone's life. According to a new health study, those who wish to live longer and cut their risk of suffering from heart disease might want to consider adding a furry creature to their household.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the American Heart Association, owning a pet may help to decrease a person's risk of suffering from heart disease. Pet ownership is also linked with lower levels of obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol.

"Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with a decreased risk of heart disease," Glenn N. Levine, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says.

The association studied more than 5,200 adults, and found that dog owners were more physically active than non-owners because they walk their pets. The calming effects of pets, which are used in animal-assisted therapy programs, were cited in other research.

Levine added that the benefits are clear on cutting the risk factors for heart disease. Levine stressed that the studies are not definitive or prove that owning a pet directly causes a reduction in heart disease risk.

"What's less clear is whether the act of adopting or acquiring a pet could lead to a reduction in cardiovascular risk in those with pre-existing disease," he said.

According to figures from the American Pet Product Association 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, about 78.2 million people in the United States own a dog and 86.4 million have a cat.
 
Research has shown that the loyalty and love pets display can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness in their owners and increase their sense of well-being and self-esteem.

In a separate study, psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University conducted three experiments to examine the potential benefits of pet ownership among what they called "everyday people." That study found that pet owners were just as close to key people in their lives as to their animals. This indicates that there is no evidence relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with other people, or that people relied more on pets when their human social support was poorer. The lonely, "crazy cat lady," it appears, has different reasons for her pet obsession.

 "We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions," lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio said. "Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, and were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners."

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