Live Longer with Pets

More than 60 percent of U.S. households include pets, and while almost every pet owner will tell you that their animal companion enriches their life in countless ways, it turns out that pets actually help prolong their lives, too. Countless studies have shown that having pets helps to lower our stress levels, decrease blood pressure, benefit our cholesterol, improve our mood, and boost our immunity -- in other words, lengthen our life span!
While the majority of the studies below focus on dogs and cats, it is true that any animal companion can offer some form of emotional wellbeing.


The heart-healthy benefits of animals
Our animal friends often warm our hearts, but apparently they also protect them. A study reported in the Medical Journal of Australia found that pet owners, in general, have lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels than people who do not own pets. And having a cat companion could cut your heart attack risk by nearly one third! According to a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, which followed 4,000+ cat owners over a period of 10 years, being a feline owner can significantly decrease the chance of dying from heart disease. Other studies have exhibited that pet owners recover more effectively and more speedily after surgery and also have reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
If you want to take your heart health one step farther, in addition to bonding with an animal friend, you can try taking tonic herbs that support a robust and open cardiovascular system, such as Super Clarity.
Man's best friend motivates you to move
Fitness trainers, eat your heart out. Nothing is more motivational to get moving than a dog’s yearning expression that says, “take me out, take me out.” People with dogs exercise more consistently than dog-free people, and small wonder: it's pretty tough to miss a walk when every dog needs to go out at least once a day.
Walking a dog is a multi-tasking way to protect your long-term health. Here are just a few reasons:
1. You fit in 20 or more minutes of solid walking every day. Aside from producing proven benefits for your heart, walking is the perfect low-impact exercise for promoting digestion and encouraging cleansing of the lymphatic system.
2. You get your daily dose of sunshine every day, which boosts your mood and supplies you with Vitamin D.
3. You receive the uplifting benefits of being in the great outdoors, a sure stress-buster.
Animal pals help us stay healthy
People with pets seem to enjoy better overall health. Researchers know that joy and laughter trigger the release of chemicals in the brain that enhance your immune function. Pets make us smile and laugh with their amusing antics and lovable gestures. It turns out that petting something fluffy is a proven immune boost. A Wilkes University study found that stroking a dog for 18 minutes caused a significant increase in secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), your body’s natural antibody against invading germs. Another study found that people with pets make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious medical conditions. A household pet could be just what the doctor ordered!
Less stress with pets
A bad day can instantly dissolve when you get home from work to be greeted by a loving friend who is happy to see you. But the benefits of de-stressing don’t end there. Interaction with pets does reduce overall levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Alan M. Beck, Sc.D., of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University, states that “contact with companion animals triggers a relaxation response.” A study that recorded the neural activity in seniors while they walked with a pooch found that this gave them a boost in parasympathetic nervous system activity, the system that helps calm and rest the body. Less stress equals a longer life, so keep good company.
One suggestion, so that your pets contribute to your health rather than detract: it is best to leave your fuzzy friends out of your bedroom at night. Their movements can keep your body from fully relaxing into deep R.E.M. sleep, bad news for getting quality shut-eye. If sleeping or stress is an issue, you might try an herbal blend that enhances both: Calm-fort, which calms the spirit and alleviates insomnia.
What to do if you don’t have a pet
If you live in a no-pets zone, there are still ways to reap the rewards of animal companionship. Many shelters allow people to volunteer, working with the animals and walking the dogs. You can also pay a visit to an animal sanctuary or offer to pet-sit for friends. If you are trying to decide whether a pet is right for you, be mindful that pets do add to your daily responsibilities. For many, the benefits more than make up for the added costs and extra duties, but decide carefully for yourself, because being a pet guardian is a long-term commitment.
You can find many more tips for a long life in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, now available on Kindle.
May you bask in the joy of spending time with animals! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

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