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Sharp Mind in Old Age? Thank Your Pet

We all know that Fido and Fifi can be a balm for your heart. As it turns out, a pet also may help protect your brain.

Older adults who own a pet may slow their rate of cognitive decline, according to a preliminary study recently presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting.

The positive effect appears to be particularly pronounced for those who own a pet for at least five years.

The study examined data from 1,369 older adults with an average age of 65. All had normal cognitive skills at the outset of the study. Of the adults in the study, 53% owned pets, with 32% having had their pet for five years or longer.

After examining cognitive test data, the researchers concluded that after six years, long-term pet owners had a cognitive composite score 1.2 points higher compared with those who did not own pets.

In a press release, study author Dr. Tiffany Braley of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor says the positive impact of pets may stem in part from the animals’ ability to reduce our levels of stress:

“As stress can negatively affect cognitive function, the potential stress-buffering effects of pet ownership could provide a plausible reason for our findings. A companion animal can also increase physical activity, which could benefit cognitive health.”

However, Braley — who also is a member of the American Academy of Neurology — said more research is necessary to both confirm the results and identify underlying mechanisms that may be responsible for the link.

Earlier studies have found that the presence of pets can help reduce their owners’ levels of stress and even lower their blood pressure.

Now that you know Fido is taking such good care of you, perhaps it’s time to return the favor. Find the right way to say “thank you” by purchasing one of the “10 Products That Pamper and Protect Your Dog.”

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