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Owning a pet could slow cognitive decline in older Americans

Oregon — Adopting a dog or a cat or another pet, can give people more than what they bargained for — in the best way. Not only do they experience the benefits of helping animals in need, they are also experiencing a positive health boost for themselves.

Older adults who are experiencing cognitive decline can really benefit from pet companionship. People with dementia can find caring for an animal is a source of support and comfort.

"We want to reduce stress, and when we do then the onset of dementia slows. So that connectivity is very important," said psychotherapist Jada Jackson. "What we want to do is lower cortisol, which is a stress hormone and we want to increase the mood enhancing hormone, which is serotonin. And we do that by connecting with animals."

Studies have shown that having a pet in the home leads to several physical and mental health benefits.

These include:

Reduced stress levels 

Decreased blood pressure

Higher good cholesterol

Better heart health

Greater resistance to germs

Decreased feelings of loneliness

Increased opportunities for socialization


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