Dog owners 50 and older see their doctors less often, have fewer illnesses, and recover more quickly when they are sick than is the case with their criitterless counterparts.

And the benefits go beyond what you’d expect from the added exercise of regular walks.

“The simple act of petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure by inducing an instant relaxation response,” says Alan Beck Sc.D., director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine in West Layfayette, Indiana. “And animal owners have a higher one-year survival rate following a heart attack, and have lower cholesterol levels, than those without pets– even when they have the same levels of exercise. Even watching fish has been found to help slow Alzheimer’s deterioration in some patients.” So don’t sweat those vet bills; consider them an investment in your own good health. -p. 74 AARP May & June 2007

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