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Heal, Spot, Heal

Pets are good company, but did you know they're also good medicine? Talk and play with them as much as you can, and you'll unleash healing powers you never knew they had: Youth dew. Pet ownership may even help you live longer because of general health benefits that accrue. Live Prozac. A Swiss study showed that cat ownership helps alleviate negative moods to a degree only paralleled by human companionship. And people recovering in hospital who receive visits from a trained dog have increased self-esteem and experience less depression. Stress soother. A study on dogs from Pretoria suggests that petting and talking to one not only reduces your blood pressure, it also increases the release of feel-good chemicals. Cardiac caregiver. Scientists in Australia report that pet owners have significantly lower systolic blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners. And pets cause a 15 percent drop in blood pressure in hypertensive patients, according to a New York-based study. Also, people with dogs and cats make ~12 percent fewer annual visits to their doctor and are less likely to be on heart medication. Weight watcher: Dogs encourage us to exercise and stay in shape. Studies have shown that people walk further with a dog than without one. Our cats also help to keep us active in other ways. Dream maker: pet owners sleep more soundly than non-pet owners. No one knows why this might be, but my hunch is that it's related to increased pleasure and reduced stress - and that's the stuff dreams are made of.

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