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5 ways pets can help your health

April 15, 2018—Few things are better than coming home to a happy puppy or a warm, cuddly cat. But it turns out that pets are far more than loving companions. They bring real health benefits—physical and mental—to their owners, studies show. Pets can help you:

1. Control your blood pressure. Just petting a pooch, a kitty or another animal friend can bring blood pressure down. According to HelpGuide.org, one study even found that when people with borderline high blood pressure adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure dropped significantly in just five months.

2. Feel less stressed out. Touching a pet can quickly soothe us when we're anxious. That may be because playing with a pet raises levels of two calming hormones: serotonin and dopamine.

3. Protect your heart. Pet owners have lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than people without them. And if you've already had a heart attack, a dog at home may help you live longer.

4. Get more exercise. Dog owners are more likely than others to get their daily quota of exercise—thanks to all those outdoor walks.

5. Stave off loneliness and depression. Caring for an animal can help you feel wanted, especially if you live alone. A pet's presence can also help you dwell less on any hardships you face. And if you're like many people who talk to their pets, those "conversations" may help you work through your troubles.

Animals are such a source of comfort, in fact, that they're often brought into nursing homes and hospitals to help ease patients' anxiety.

Special benefits for kids and older folks

Children who grow up with pets may be especially likely to thrive. A pet can help a child feel secure and develop a positive self-image—after all, pets don't see flaws or criticize. Caring for a pet can also help a youngster become more responsible. And kids who are attached to pets are also more likely to build relationships with people.

Pets can add meaning to the lives of seniors as they retire or children move away. And pet owners over 65 make 30 percent fewer doctors' visits than their counterparts without pets.

But whatever your age, if there's a special pet in your life, chances are you'll get back more than you give.

Now that you've read about the health benefits of pets, take our quiz to test your knowledge.

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