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How can having a pet help improve my overall well-being?

Having a dog or cat peacefully nap by your side can be comforting. Pets can reduce loneliness, lower blood pressure and ward off depression.

Having a cat, dog or other small pet gives you something to do. Carrying out tasks such as grooming, cleaning or walking an animal can give you a sense of purpose -- not to mention a reason to get out of the house for some low-impact exercise and social interaction. Research from the University of Victoria in British Columbia revealed that people with dogs tended to be more physically active than those without them.

Here’s another reason pets might be good for your well-being. A study by scientists at Purdue University found that people with Alzheimer's disease who had aquariums in their rooms had better eating and nutritional habits. The aquariums seemed to help the people maintain a healthy body weight. They even took fewer supplements, reducing health care costs.

The benefits of pet ownership aren’t just physical. It's long been recognized that lack of companionship can have many negative effects on mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety and potentially even dementia. For some people -- especially those with memory problems -- it’s sometimes easier to connect with animals than humans. That’s why pets can be ideal friends for some older people.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.
 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.