Pets can improve your overall health as well as your overall well-being in a variety of different ways. From helping reduce symptoms of depression and reduce stress as well as encouraging us to exercise more. There’s even more positive news for people who have pets: a recent study has revealed that having an animal that is older than 65 could also help to prevent cognitive decline as we age.

Researchers from The University of Michigan tested older people’s cognitive capacity, the ability to acquire and retain knowledge via memories, thinking, and judgment–over an extended period of six years. The study’s lead researcher Tiffany Braley, MD a professor of clinical psychology of neurology at the University of Michigan Medical Center as well as her coworkers, found that pet owners who have been with their pets for a long time had more points on these tests than those who did not have pets.

“Prior studies have indicated that the human-animal bond could be beneficial to health, including lowering stress and blood pressure,” Braley said in a press statement issued by the American Academy of Neurology. “Our results suggest that pets can also help protect against a decline in cognitive capacity.”

Researchers used data on cognitive functioning from participants in the U of M’s long-term Health and Retirement Study. This group of people comprised 1,369 people who had an average of age 65. The majority of them had pets while 32 percent had been pet owners for five or more years according to the academy.

At the start of the research, participants were able to perform normal cognitive tasks. Through an array of tests on cognitive abilities that focused on subtraction counting as well as word recall, each participant received a score that ranged from one to. Over the course of six years, tests revealed that pet owners who have been with their pets for a long time were able to achieve cognitive composite scores which exceeded 1.2 points higher than non-pet owners. The participants who were male, Black, or college-educated were the most likely to gain.

This isn’t just a casual encounter of pets for therapy What could have an impact?

“As stress can adversely affect cognitive functioning, the possible buffering of stress caused by pet ownership could be a plausible explanation to our research findings,” explained Braley.

Braley also noted that companion animals can trigger increased physical exercise, for example, strolls, and playtime–which could also boost the health of your brain. Further research is required, however, to verify their findings, Braley said. The preliminary results will be discussed in April, at the AAN’s annual conference.

Honestly? It’s not surprising to hear this. We often hear stories about the incredible bond between the elderly foster parents and their animals and the ways that people who adopt animals from rescue have a new reason to live and love. So we’re happy to do our part to ensure healthy, happy lives!

Senior citizens are also able to ask their veterinary doctors for local organizations that may be able to provide extra assistance.

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