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Owning A Dog Is Good For Your Heart — Study Says What We All Knew

It seems unconditional love from a fluffy, drooling canine is one key to a healthier life — as many people already expected.

A study of more than 3.4-million people revealed that having a dog in the house is linked to living a longer life. The research, published in Scientific Reports by Uppsala University in Sweden, reviewed a national registry of people aged 40 to 80 for up to 12 years. Just over 13 per cent were dog owners.

By evaluating health records, it found that registered dog owners had a lower risk of having heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions. It said owning a dog cuts down the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36 per cent for people that live alone.

There is a slightly lower benefit to owning a canine for those who don’t live alone — the risk was cut by only 15 per cent. Researchers even considered other factors such as smoking and body weight to make sure the results were as accurate as possible.

While the study stops short of determining a direct “causal effect” between dog ownership and lower heart disease, it indicates that dog owners may have better health because they stay active by walking their pets, even in bad weather.

A new study says owning a dog can lower chances of developing heart problems.

It adds that having a fluffy friend could also help ease feelings of isolation, depression and stress.

“Dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in single households and with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death in the general population,” the study concludes.

And it’s just one of many studies that have come to a similar conclusion about the health benefits of owning a dog.

Earlier this year, a study found that seniors who own a dog spend an average of 22 more minutes per day staying active and take an additional 2,760 steps per day.

Dogs have also been found to improve mental health in children, and help soothe stress for travellers nervous about their flight and students during exams.

— With files from Global News reporter Tania Kohut

By Maham Abedi   National Online Journalist, Breaking News    November 17, 2017
source: Global News
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Loneliness Even Unhealthier Than Obesity

Loneliness Even Unhealthier Than Obesity, Should Be A Public Health Priority: Psychologist

Loneliness should be a major public health concern, according to an American psychologist.

Loneliness is a major health risk, like obesity or smoking, and public health programs should address it in the same way, says a psychologist.

New research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, found that social isolation contributes as strongly to mortality as does smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“This is something that we should all be taking seriously for our health,” she said.

Holt-Lunstad’s research, presented at a conference of the American Psychological Association, analyzed studies on mortality risk to find out how feelings of social isolation and loneliness compared to other risk factors. She found that it has a greater effect than obesity or exercise.

Having few social connections is associated with various health effects, she said, such as cardiovascular problems, immune response, cognitive decline, and cellular aging, she said. But having other people around helps in other ways too: people are more likely to take their medication, to exercise, and to visit the doctor with encouragement from others.

“Our relationships help provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. And that can translate to better self-care as well as less risk-taking,” said Holt-Lunstad.

Isolation

It’s an important message at a time when more Canadians than ever are living alone – one of the risk factors examined by Holt-Lunstad in her research.

Census data shows that 28.2 per cent of Canadian adults lived alone in 2016 – the highest proportion since Confederation. And, for the first time, this was the most common household type in the country.

This is partly due to Canada’s aging population, according to Statistics Canada, though more than one-in-10 Canadians under 60 also lives alone.

But everyone can feel the effects of loneliness, said Holt-Lunstad.

“We tend to assume that this is an issue that may be specific to older adults or the elderly, and while of course, that population is important to consider, it’s not isolated to that group,” she said.
“When we look across the data, this affects both men and women. We don’t see any effect in terms of it being stronger in older age and in fact, we have some evidence to suggest that it may be stronger in those under 65.”

 

Until the age of 60, men are more likely than women to live by themselves. This reverses after 60, likely due to men’s lower average life span, meaning there are lots of widowed women. More than half of women over 85 are living alone, according to census data.

A recent survey of seniors by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons found that more than 16 per cent of respondents reported lacking companionship. Fourteen per cent said they have nobody to talk to.

And another survey by the Vancouver Foundation in 2012 found that 25 per cent of residents of that city said they were alone more often than they would like to be.

Public health programs

Holt-Lunstad would like to see information about the effects of loneliness be included in public health programs in the same way information about the dangers of smoking or obesity is.

“I’ve heard people say things like, ‘You can’t put good relationships in the water.’ Or, ‘We can’t legislate that like we may be able to do with a Clean Air Act,’” she said. While that’s true, she believes people should prioritize their relationships in the same way that many have started to do with regular exercise.

“If we approach it as we can all be working on nurturing and fostering our own relationships, this may have a much broader population-wide impact.”

She also believes that research about the health impacts of loneliness should be included in medical training so that doctors can screen their patients for social isolation and provide information when needed. Kids should also learn about relationships the same way that they learn about nutrition, as a way to prevent future problems.

Holt-Lunstad’s research will be published next month in the journal The American Psychologist.


By Leslie Young   National Online Journalist, Investigative       Global News


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5 Ways to Beat Loneliness

Loneliness can affect us all at different times, in different ways. Whether it’s a fleeting feeling or a constant state of disconnection, here are five ways to beat loneliness

From time to time, we all experience the odd bout of loneliness. Sometimes it can creep up on us during periods of change (like a move or the end of a relationship, for example), and leave us feeling physically or emotionally distanced from other people. Loneliness doesn’t just strike when we’re by ourselves, either. It can be just as easy to feel lonely in a throng of people when you’re feeling disconnected.

For some people, however, loneliness is more than a fleeting feeling. It can be a near steady state with long-term consequences. “I’d say it was a persistent sense of marginalization and exclusion, and a lack of intimacy,’ says Emily White, who experienced a four-year period of loneliness in her early thirties while working as an environmental lawyer in Toronto. ‘I felt a persistent sense of insufficiency’of not having enough people close to me, and that in turn led to a feeling of anxious aloneness.’

White, who recently described her experience in a book called Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude, says the prolonged loneliness eventually began to have physical effects, disrupting her sleep and her health. ‘I started daydreaming a lot,’ she recalls, ‘and I wasn’t as sharp cognitively. Loneliness started to have an effect on me that was real and observable. It took me some time to figure out how deeply it was affecting me.’

According to White, roughly 10 percent of North Americans struggle with chronic loneliness‘a condition more prevalent than depression (and, it’s important to note, different from depression), though harder to understand and less frequently talked about.

‘It’s a common problem,’ agrees Toronto-based counsellor and psychotherapist, Lesli Musicar, who says that many people don’t admit they suffer from loneliness. ‘A lot of people who feel lonely, you’d never suspect in a million years,’ she says. ‘They might go out a lot, or be highly social, but their interactions stay mainly on the surface. So even though they may give the impression of being popular, those people may be feeling very lonely underneath it all because they aren’t letting people get close to them.’

lonliness

While some people may be more predisposed to chronic loneliness than others, it can be overcome. Keep loneliness at bay with these tips:

1. Don’t isolate

When you’re feeling lonely already, it can be hard to think about trying to engage with other people, but keeping your own company may only make the problem worse. ‘Loneliness comes from people not feeling comfortable letting other people close to them,’ says Musicar, explaining that if you have a negative self-image, you may be afraid to let others get to know you for fear they might not like what they find. ‘If you can’t let people close to you, however, you are going to feel alone.’ The problem, she explains, is that when you isolate, there’s nobody around to challenge your negative self-image. ‘You have no reality checks’you only have your own view of yourself.’

2. Keep busy

Though it may be the last thing you want to do if you’re feeling isolated, Musicar suggests joining an group‘a book club, a sports team, choir or a gardening group, for example’where you can meet people who share you own interests. ‘If you join a group where the activity is meaningful for you, and you enjoy it, chances are it will bring out the best in you. And if you feel good while you’re engaged in that activity, it will help you feel more connected to the people around you because you have this one thing in common.’

3. Be kind to yourself

If you’re chronically lonely, you may be fearful of letting people get close. First, learn to love yourself! Fixing a negative view of yourself takes a lot of gentle self-care and nurturing. ‘The first relationship you need to work on is your relationship with yourself,’ says Musicar’and that may mean gently corrected ways of thinking you learned as a child. ‘If you were neglected or criticized,’ she explains, ‘you need to turn that around. You need to start treating yourself differently. The biggest challenge is to treat yourself well when you aren’t feeling good about yourself.’ Being happier with yourself will make it easier to reach out to others.

4. Get educated

Emily White started writing her book on loneliness because she was curious to know more about her condition. Her research actually helped her to feel less lonely by making it less mysterious, which made it easier to deal with. ‘The more you learn about loneliness and how common it is, the less alone you feel,’ she explains. ‘It’s hard to be lonely, but it’s harder when you don’t understand it or you feel alone in your loneliness.’

5. Find someone to reach out to

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or a therapist, finding someone to talk to about your situation can make a huge difference. ‘It’s the biggest challenge,’ says Musicar, ‘but it’s the most healing thing you can do for yourself. Our cultural stigma around loneliness makes the condition hard to talk about, but keeping your feelings hidden may leave you feeling worse. ‘When you feel bad about yourself,’ says Musicar, ‘that’s when you need to hear a different message about yourself. You need to hear from someone else that you matter and that you are worthy.’

BY BEST HEALTH  Web exclusive, June 2010