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Monday 22 July 2013

4 Absurdly Wonderful Ways Your Pets Keep You Healthy

America has gone fur-crazy. There are an estimated 164 million dogs and cats living in our homes, and that number doesn't seem to be decreasing anytime soon. If you are one of these pet owners, all it takes is a cuddle and a look into those big, loving eyes to make all their messes worthwhile. According to science, however, our pets offer much more than companionship. Pets can benefit every aspect of our lives: emotional, physical and even intellectual

They Make You Smarter

Physical therapists and educators have long known the benefits of introducing an animal to a classroom or therapy session, and science is just starting to catch up. Dr. Mary Renck Jalongo, education professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and author of “The World of Children and Their Companion Animals” notes in her book that animals provide us with the most non-stressful environments for learning. When an authority figure is barking (pun intended) orders at you, your chances of learning are diminished. The study shows that people become relaxed and more prone to learning and excelling in the presence of an animal.

They Provide Emotional Support

When we interact with our pets, the hormone oxytocin or “the love hormone” is produced, and we feel an instant bond, happiness or joy. Pets can help combat loneliness or trauma, or they can share your joy for your latest promotion. USA Today reports that pets are so adept at producing this “smile” hormone, that simply looking at your pet is enough to boost the neurotransmitters in your brain that make you happy. Although this doesn't mean pets are the answer to all of life’s problems, some doctors have gone so far as to prescribe a pet instead of Prozac.

They Reduce The Odds of Certain Health Problems

Pets can help reduce a number of health problems that you would never expect. Although it seems counter-intuitive, pets have been proven to help present and even ward off allergies. A study by pediatrician James E. Gern at University of Wisconsin-Madison reveals that growing up with pets can reduce your likelihood and severity of allergies by up to 33 percent. The kicker — they don’t even have to be pet allergies, they can be food or inhalant allergies as well. The same study also showed that long-term pet owners tend to have healthier immune systems.

They Help You Stay Active, Maintain a Healthy Weight

The act of caring for another living creature gives us purpose. It forces us to go on a walk, even if it’s raining, or clean a litter box when all we want to do is lay around on the sofa. All of the added activities involved with pet ownership lower your cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides, minimizing your risk of a heart attack and type two diabetes. A study by the American Heart Association concluded that pet owners are 54 percent more likely to get their recommended levels of exercise and activity, and they responded better to stress.

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