Friday, October 14, 2011

Listening to Life: Heart health, weight loss benefits of pets have been focus of national studies

I found this article online and thought it was so cute that I'd have to share it with my lovely readers. As if we all need an excuse to own a pet it turns out it's actually beneficial to heart health.

Listening to Life: Heart health, weight loss benefits of pets have been focus of national studies
Naples News
By Nori St. Paul

Life isn’t always a bed of roses.

I woke up this morning, stretched and popped a few bones. I’m getting old, I thought. I reached out my hand and slid around the sheets, looking for Lily. I drew her to me and felt the indescribable warmth of pure love next to my skin. My physical discomfort melted into the background as Lily snuggled close and kissed my face and I began my morning meditation.

If you have a pet, you know the feeling. Well, unless you have a pet fish or snake, you wouldn’t want to wake up to them in bed. (Eh-hemm. No comments, please!) But, as a matter of fact, I’ve had those, too, and loved them. There’s just something about Lily. I’m not alone in my zeal for my precious pup.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that about two-thirds of all U.S. households own at least one pet, and a 2009 report reveals there were more than 160 million pet cats and dogs nationwide. And reports abound about the health benefits of our four-legged friends. One NIH-funded investigation looked at more than 2,000 adults and found that dog owners who regularly walked their dogs were more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who didn’t own or walk a dog. Another study supported by NIH followed more than 2,500 older adults, ages 71-82, for 3 years. Those who regularly walked their dogs walked faster and for longer time periods each week than others who didn’t walk regularly. Older dog walkers also had greater mobility inside their homes than others in the study.

Well, let me tell you, I do love the opportunity to get more exercise, like now.

OK, I’m back. Took her out real quick for her morning business, then I did what I always do. I turned on my computer to start my day writing, and started my coffee, which brand happens to be a step down from my passion for Starbucks. “OK,” I say, “That’ll be one extra scoop for this brand. There, ahhh,” I say as I simultaneously sip and will myself to imagine the weaker more rancid tasting coffee is as blissful as any, and after all, practical in an economy that is wearing thin the term “economic recovery.” Anyway, I’m happy. Where’s Lily? Oh. Here she is. “I’m lucky,” I say to myself.

It’s just a fact that Lily gives me unconditional love. No matter what, she loves me. No matter what, I’m good enough for her. I really like the study where the NIH looked at 240 married couples. Those who owned a pet were found to have lower heart rates and blood pressure, whether at rest or when undergoing stressful tests, than those without pets. Pet owners also seemed to have milder responses and quicker recovery from stress when they were with their pets than with a spouse or friend.

Excuse me while I take a break; breakfast time for Lily. She doesn’t ask for much, and she gives me so much — I feed her the best dog food money can buy. Dollar for dollar, the dog food is more expensive than my coffee, and all the other canine brands on the shelf are cheaper, every single one of them. If I went for the cheapest dog food, I could justify my Starbucks coffee. If you knew how much I loved my Starbucks French Roast in the morning, you’d know how much I love my Lily to forgo it for the IAMS. And she’s worth it.

Although, I’ll admit that at first I thought, how funny…people would rather be with an animal than a human? But now that I think about it, when I was a little girl, I had pets that served as my safe haven from all kinds of discord, and even saved my emotions in some ways, just as the studies indicate. Let’s see, there was Rusty, Sam, Bandit, Max and a beagle whose name I can’t remember. In my adult life, there were two more Sams, a Shadow, Bit Bit and Little Boy. There was Jolie, Caesar, Callie and Romeo. And then my fish, and that little baby king snake. Never once did any of my pets abuse me, call me a name, shame me or hurt my feelings in any way.

When I first got Lily a year and a half ago, I was worried that she may be too much of a distraction for a writer, or too demanding of my time. While it’s true that pets are a great commitment, they give far more than they require. Twenty four-seven, my precious dog is available to give me love, and let me love her. She has truly become my most trusted and loving confidant, odd as it sounds, and she is always so happy to see me, no matter what.

And Lily, who I adopted from a client at the Naples Shelter for Abused Women and Children, (where, by the way, they allow pets), well, she is my life jacket. Really. Another NIH related study reveals she’s good for my cardiovascular system, and when I pet her, not only does it reduce my blood pressure, it reduces my stress and risk of heart attack. One NIH-funded study looked at 421 adults who’d suffered heart attacks. A year later, the scientists found, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than were those who did not own dogs, regardless of the severity of the heart attack.

So, yes, life isn’t always a bed of roses, but it’s been pretty awesome with my friend Lily, and you know, this coffee tastes pretty darn good after all. C’mon Lily, let’s get on with our day.

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