Anyone who’s ever owned a pet knows that they can affect your life in many positive ways. They provide companionship, loyalty and love. Although pet owners already knew it, recent research has also proven it: pets are good for both your physical and mental health, and could actually help you live longer.
The CDC credits pets with decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness while increasing opportunities for socialization and exercise—all important factors in maintaining brain health. Pets have also proven to be stress relievers, reducing the effects of anxiety and agitation. Marwan Sabbagh, MD, and Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Brain Health says, “Simply petting an animal can decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol and boost release of the neurotransmitter serotonin,” which can result in improved mood and lower blood pressure and heart rate.
People can get the brain-boosting benefit of increased exercise if they own a dog. Plus, taking a dog for a walk can create opportunities for social interactions which further enhance a brain-healthy lifestyle. It’s not only dogs that lead to better brain health for their owners. While they have a reputation for being aloof, cats are wonderfully affectionate companions, and easy to care for. And Time Magazine recently featured studies that have shown that rabbits, fish, guinea pigs and even crickets can increase mental well-being.
People who are unable to own pets can reap the benefits in other ways, such as offering to pet-sit or volunteering at an animal shelter. NBC News recently reported that robotic pets which don’t require food, walks or vet visits may be “the next big thing in dementia care,” as initial studies have linked the time dementia patients spent with robotic pets to lower levels of depression and agitation.
Sharp Again Naturally encourages you to spend some extra time with your pets, or your neighbor’s pets—it can improve your brain health, and your overall well-being.
Harvard Health Publishing, “Why Having a Pet is Good for Your Health”