Animals are good for Seniors’ health

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Animal lovers have always known it. Now health researchers are confirming it: animals are good for your health.

Just 10 minutes of physical interaction with a beloved pet can lower blood pressure and increase finger temperature—both clear signs of relaxation—according to a number of research studies.

Benefits to people with high blood pressure have been documented as well. A recent study showed that pets can do what medicine cannot. It involved two groups of stockbrokers who were already being treated with ACE-inhibitor therapy.

The study found significant differences in their physiological reactions to stress tests. Those with pets were about half as reactive to stressors. This study demonstrates the health effects of pets in conjunction with medication. That’s significant because it’s well known that this type of medication plays an important role in controlling resting blood pressure, but does not control blood pressure related to stress.

Another study of people with borderline hypertension shows equally encouraging results. Two groups were evaluated for their reactions to psychological stress tests and monitored for several days. The group with dogs in the home reduced resting blood pressure (to within normal range) and reactivity to stress, as well as ambulatory blood pressure, even while at work. The lowest blood pressure was recorded on the day participants took their dogs to work.

Several studies on Alzheimer’s patients living in special-care units revealed that residents were less agitated and expressed more socially interactive behaviors when therapy dogs were present. This proved especially true in the late afternoon or at sundown, when agitation tends to escalate. After Sadie, a golden retriever therapy dog, came to live on one unit, agitation behaviors decreased and remained lower for weeks. Sadie quickly adapted and became good friends with Bill, one of the residents. When Bill became agitated, Sadie seemed to know almost intuitively that he needed her and tried to help him become calmer.

Although the study of human/animal relationships began only about 25 years ago, many treatments and interventions involving pets and therapy animals have now been subjected to the rigors of scientific research.

As America’s population ages and pressures on healthcare spending increase, the healthcare system may find the important and relatively inexpensive role of animals increasingly valuable in maintaining and improving human health.

Source:  http://www.washingtonpost.com

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