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Q: Can owning a pet really have health benefits?

Posted May 01, 2013 in Advice Column, Clear Lake

A: Just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop.

For seniors, the benefits of a furry companion can be life-changing. Walking a dog is great cardiovascular exercise, but just the simple act of caring for a pet — petting, brushing, feeding — provides both mild activity and a means to stay engaged with the world. Pets can make the elderly feel needed, and that feeling can translate into a greater sense of purpose and self-worth. During what can be a lonely time of life, the unconditional love of a cherished dog or cat can be a bridge to more socialization with others, lowered stress, mental stimulation and a renewed interest in life. In the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke.

Finally, keep in mind that you’ll be making a commitment that will last the lifetime of the pet. Be sure you are able to care for your pet or that you have someone who can help you care for them. This way, everyone is happy.

Information provided by Holly Windelow, co-owner, Help At Home Senior Care LLC, 141 N. Clark St., Clear Lake, 641-525-0332,,

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