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Pets are the best medicine when it comes to human health

Pets, especially dogs and cats, can help lower stress and blood pressure, among other health benefits, according to studies.

Fish, cats, dogs, hamsters. No matter the pet, all are a prescription to lower blood pressure and heart rates, increased chances of recovery from heart attacks, improved communication skills in children, and a happier life in general. According to a study by Humana, any kind of pet — but especially cats and dogs — contributes to a happier, healthier life for humans.

Here are some of the findings that the 62 percent of Americans who own pets already know.

Pet owners have:

Healthy hearts

Owning a pet lowers both cholesterol and triglycerides, which can help prevent heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, people who have heart attacks are more likely to recover if they own a cat or dog.

Less stress and depression

Petting a dog or cat, or even watching a fish, lowers blood pressure and induces a feeling of calmness. Playing with a pet makes humans feel good because it releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain — two chemicals that produce good feelings. According to the National Institutes of Health, people recover from stressful situations more quickly when with pets rather than partners or friends.

More confidence

Pet owners bounce back from rejection more quickly and have greater self-esteem, according to a study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. This is especially helpful for children, who develop empathy and learn responsibility through pet ownership.

More strength

Another NIH study found that dog owners are more active than non-dog owners and less prone to obesity. One study of elderly pet owners showed that those who walked their dogs were more physically able and mobile inside and outside the home. In addition, time outdoors increases levels of vitamin D, a necessary ingredient for strong bones.

More social activity

Pet owners find each other when walking their dogs or in pet stores buying supplies. They talk to each other to exchange information and, in return, become more connected to their community.

Good ways to find just the right pet are to visit an animal shelter or pet store, talk to friends and family, join an online forum, and do some reading and research at the library.

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