According to researchers, more than 1/3 of adults can reduce the risk of stroke or heart attacks if they own a cat. Scientists did a study on over 4000 American adults between the ages of 30 and 75 over a period of 10 years of which half owned cats. They discovered that these owners had less anxiety and stress which contributed in reducing the chances or heart failure or stroke. The scientists also discovered that it was also helpful in reducing blood pressure.
This study was presented in a stroke conference in New Orleans at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference. The study took account other factors contributing to heart failure or stroke such as high cholesterol levels, smoking and diabetes. The scientists who carried out the study, Professor Adnan Qureshi, from the University of Minnesota, said he was surprised by the findings. He quoted “the logical explanation may be the fact that cat ownership relieves stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of heart disease.”
Doctor Qureshi believes that stroking the cat could cut the level of stress related hormones in the blood. Reducing stress is known to help protect against heart disease by lowering the blood pressure and reducing the heart rate. So the news are good, a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack.
Cat owners have less stress!
According to researcher Farhan Siddiq, MD, of the University of Minnesota says he thinks that cat lovers share personality characteristic's such as low stress and anxiety levels that protect them against heart disease and stroke, he believes that dog owners also share the same characteristics.
Daniel Lackland, MD, a stroke expert of the University of South Carolina in Charleston, agrees that “cats and dogs are good, and they make you feel better.” Dr. Lackland stresses however “the findings should not detract from the critical value of controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.“
Kathy Cole, a clinical nurse at the University of California Los Angeles Center and School of Nursing said, “she was not surprised by the findings.” Miss Cole has always believed that cat can reduce the risk of heart attack and she presented these results in 2005 to the American Heart Association, and stated, “I would be inclined to think that any animal that is perceived as meaningful to a person in a positive way would have health benefits.”
Miss Cole also mentioned other research that suggested that pets create a calming effect. She stated that, “unfortunately, some of these benefits are not available to some potential heart patients who live-in low-cost apartments or nursing homes.”
It is currently estimated that there are over 72 million pet dogs and over 82 million pet cats in the US, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Veterinary experts believe however that cats can bring more stress relief than dogs; they believe this because cats are for the most part a lap animal that want to be petted which brings a reduction in stress that can lead to low blood pressure.
Dogs however can increase the stress level of the owner because they require work, they demand attention, they want to be taken for a walk, they need to be fed on a routine while cats practically take care of themselves.
Should you go out and buy a cat or a dog in order to reduce your chances of heart attack?
Of course, researchers believe that more research is needed.
At Milla’s Kats, we go out of our way in raising our American Shorthair kittens to be lap cats. We believe that this is crucial for both the kitten and family and also believe that a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack. The benefits of cat ownership continue to amaze us and we see their benefit all the time.
Beside owning a cat or a dog to reduce stress, there are many other things you can do to reduce your stress, listen to music, read a book, sit on the beach and listen to the waves crashing, snuggle your significant other. Here is a great link A Guide to a Stress Free Day with more suggestions.
International Stroke Conference 2008, New Orleans.
Farhan Siddiq, MD, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Daniel Lackland, MD, professor of epidemiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
US News & World Report, ABC News.