Maybe if Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) kept puppies at work, they would have aced their stress test.
OK, that's a stretch. But owning a pet does reduce stress for real people, and possibly contributes to other health benefits, which ultimately can save you money (that means more for your kitty).
Numerous studies indicate that pets not only lower your risk for many diseases but they can also help you heal faster, which keeps your cash into your pocket, rather than in your doctor’s.
We’re not suggesting you ditch your normal health practices—vitamins, exercise or routine medical care—and get a dog instead, but all things considered, a pet may reduce your health-related expenses more than she costs you in kibble and kitty litter.
1. Pets Can Keeps Your Blood Pressure in Check
Potential Expense Offset: $10,800, which is the average cost of a heart attack-related hospital stay, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Additional post-heart attack expenses, according to the American Heart Association, can include $400 drugs and up to $114,000 in related medical costs.
The Scoop: A study in Psychosomatic Medicine linked dog ownership to reduced anxiety, a slower heartbeat, more relaxed muscles and lower blood pressure, plus heightened ability to cope with stress. A separate study showed that cat owners’ blood pressure dropped while they were stroking their cats.
2. Pets can Help You Rebound from Illness Faster
Potential Expense Offset: $3,000, the average cost of a one night hospital stay, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The Scoop: It turns out having a dog may not only help you survive longer after major sickness, but also heal faster (i.e. get you out of the hospital bed sooner!). A study in the American Journal of Critical Care showed that even short-term exposure to dogs after heart failure significantly lowers stress hormones, boosts mood and improves cardiac function.
3. Pets Are Immunity Boosters
Potential Expense Offset: $620, the annual medical visit costs in the U.S., according to an estimate from the National Center for Health Statistics (based on four doctor visits annually at $155 each appointment).
The Scoop: If you hate doctors, you’ll love a pet. Owners are said to make fewer visits on average to their family physicians, according to a UCLA study, probably because they’re less stressed and engage in more physical activity than those without furry companions.
4. Pets Can Lower Cholesterol
Potential Expense Offset: $1,825, which is the annual costs of cholesterol meds, according to USA Today, based on $5 a day price for Zocor (Stock Quote: MRK). (The same drug, simvastatin, is now available generically, and the cost varies widely.)
The Scoop: According to the CDC, pets can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Don't ditch your cholesterol-dropping statin drugs, of course, but several studies have shown that pet owners have lower cholesterol than those in homes with no pets.
5. Pets Can Keep You in Shape
Potential Expense Offset: $600 to $1,200 in yearly gym membership costs (estimate based on $50 to $100 per month average monthly fee).
The Scoop: It only makes more sense that dog owners log more steps per day than non-pet owners, but they also tend to walk faster, harder and longer, and are less likely to be obese. An extra mile walk morning and night gets you to nearly half of the surgeon general's recommended 10,000 daily steps.
6. Pets Can Ward Off Elderly Depression
Potential Expense Offset: $4,680, the annual cost for a one hour a day, five day a week home companion (based on $18 an hour average rate for home companions cited in a 2007 Metlife study).
The Scoop: Loneliness and depression can be common among seniors and, while you eventually may still need home companion visits, research shows that those with pets live longer and better than those living alone. Similar studies show that pet owners are as much as four times less likely to get age-related depression than those living by themselves, likely because even simple acts like petting a dog release brain chemicals (serotonin, for example) that naturally combat the condition.
7. Pets Can Play the Role of Marriage Counselor
Potential Expense Offset: $10,400, which is the estimated cost of a year's worth of couples therapy (at a rate of $200 an hour, once a week).
The Scoop: Sure, if your marriage is on the rocks, nothing Fido is going to do can save the relationship. However, the upside for most couples is that studies show twosomes with dogs report less tension in their marriages (maybe it’s the “blame the dog” theory), as well as better conflict resolution with their partners.
Kind of brings new meaning to the exaltation, "Good dog!"
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