By Denny Watkins, Men’s Health
Live-in companionship isn’t what it used to be. Pet ownership by single people has increased by almost 17 percent since 2006, finds a new report by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Research has shown that critters can keep you happier, healthier, and maybe even smarter than going it alone. Check out these scientific perks of having a pet:
Dogs: Dog owners have lower cholesterol than non-owners, get more exercise, lose more weight when dieting, and have lower blood pressure spikes when stressed, according to a recent review of pet ownership studies conducted by the American Heart Association.
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Cats: Having a cat reduces your risk of dying from heart disease by 37 percent, says a study from the University of Minnesota. And even if you’ve owned a cat in the past, but don’t currently keep a feline, your risk of heart disease has been reduced by 26 percent. Researchers believe that cats may help you feel less stressed and more relaxed, which results in less strain on your heart and blood vessels.
Birds: Scientists believe that listening to 5 minutes of birdsong every day can improve your mood.
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What’s more, background chirping may even be able to improve your ability to concentrate at work—the random sounds don’t get stuck in your head the way a Katy Perry song can.
Hamsters, mice, and other rodents: Owning pets other than a cat or dog reduces your risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, by 36 percent, says a study at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. (Owning a dog or cat also decreases your risk, but not as much.)
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Researchers believe that exposure to animals, particularly at a young age, makes your immune system more hardy and resistant to cancer.
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Fish: Fish are an instant stress reliever. A British study found that people who were shown a tank with fish in it experienced a greater drop in heart rate and a higher increase in mood than people who sat staring at an empty aquarium.