I’m stressed to the max and can’t take it anymore! Here Bandit. Come Mittens.
Where would we be without our pets? We certainly value their companionship and enjoy their antics. And, on a deeper level, pets help us connect to the carefree part of ourselves that doesn’t have deadlines and mortgages. But, did you know that there’s growing evidence that owning a pet can also keep you healthier and help protect against the stresses of life?
A study by researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo suggests that pets can be even more of a support in times of stress than friends or spouses. The study involved 240 married couples, half of whom owned a cat or dog. The subjects had to perform two tasks: doing difficult math problems in their heads and putting their hands in ice water for two minutes. Some were alone, and some had company — either a spouse, a friend, or a pet. As reported in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, subjects had higher blood pressure and heart rates when a spouse or friend was in the room. However, in the presence of a pet, blood pressure and heart rates went down.
How could Bandit or Mittens be more helpful than a wife, husband or close friend? The researchers noted that judgment and criticism from others is a major source of stress. Spouses and friends may be supportive, but there is nothing like the nonjudgmental loyalty of a pet.
Other research suggests that pets can ease depression, bring solace to the lonely, and reduce blood pressure in both children and adults. One study found that even gazing at fish in an aquarium helped lower blood pressure.
People suffering from heart disease may have the most to gain from animal companionship. A study of heart attack patients found that dog owners were six times more likely than patients without dogs to survive an additional year.
Owning a dog may also help ward off diseases related to stress and a sedentary lifestyle. A recent study showed that urban dog owners generally walk almost twice as much as neighbors without pet dogs.
Of course, the wrong pet could end up becoming the exact opposite of a stress reliever. Before bringing home an animal, choose carefully and consider how much attention, space and time you can give to a new companion. If you choose well, you’ll have a friend for many years. And you don’t need a heart monitor to see the value in that.
Medications purchased at the veterinarian’s office can be expensive, but with an average savings of 24 percent, AAA Prescription Savings can help. Just ask your vet to write a prescription you can fill at a participating pharmacy. As a AAA member, you receive AAA Prescription Savings FREE. Since this discount is included with your membership, no enrollment is required. Visit AAA.com/prescriptions to print a card or call 1-866-AAA-SAVE to request a card by mail.
AAA Prescription Savings is not an insurance plan. Savings are only available at participating pharmacies. Heartworm or flea/tick prevention medications are not covered.
This article was provided by Chris Woolston, Consumer Health Interactive.
Sutton, Amy. Urban Dog Owners Take Longer Walks. Health Behavior News Service. January 2006.
Allen, K. et al. Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: The truth about cats and dogs. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2002. 64:727-739.
American Veterinary Medical Association. Pets, spouses compete for the title of best stress relievers: Pets win. November 2002.
Friedmann, E. and S.A. Thomas. Pet ownership, social support, and one-year survival after acute myocardial infarction. American Journal of Cardiology. December 15, 1995. 76(17):1213-1217.
Fitzgerald, Faith T., MD. The Therapeutic Value of Pets. Western Journal of Medicine, 1986. January, 1440(1):103-5.