Having a beloved pet may reduce the risk

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A dog can not only protect against loneliness: long-term ownership of a pet can also have a positive effect on memory performance.

Dementia is a progressive, incurable, neurological disease. It is characterized by decreased cognitive abilities and progressive memory loss that can no longer be reversed. Alzheimer's disease typically progresses in four stages.

Since the population is aging and age is a risk factor for dementia, more and more people will suffer from it in the future. However, dementia is not inevitable. Lifestyle also plays an important role in protecting against the neurodegenerative disease. According to one study, owning a dog for a long time may have a preventive effect.

Preventing dementia: Researchers are investigating dog ownership as protection against the disease

The risk of dementia can be partially influenced. For example, owning a dog reduces the risk. © Creatista/Imago

According to the information received from Psychology Today Studies show that about a third of dementia cases are related to controllable and modifiable causes, including the person's own lifestyle. These include, for example, social isolation, lack of physical activity and long-term stress, but also depression and cardiovascular diseases. The focus of many scientific studies on dementia prevention is therefore on lifestyle habits that can reduce the likelihood or severity of such diseases. As a team of researchers found, owning a dog can also have a positive effect on the risk of dementia.

in your Studywhich will be published in the specialist journal in 2022 Journal of Aging and Health Was published, the research team led by Dr. Jennifer W. Applebaum of the University of Florida in Gainesville discusses how owning a dog can help reverse cognitive decline in older people. Their ideas were based on the already known and proven positive effects of living with a pet. Owning a dog reduces the risk of depression, improves cardiovascular health and reduces loneliness.

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Prevent dementia: Study shows owning a dog long term may help prevent disease

For their study, the scientists analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan. For this purpose, a group of 1,369 people were analyzed and observed over a period of six years using various cognitive tests. The aim was to investigate the effects of dog ownership on the cognitive abilities of seniors. However, the researchers believed that having a dog in the room or petting it before the test did not have any notable cognitive benefits. Therefore, they hypothesized that short interactions with a pet may not help, but only everyday interactions with a familiar dog over a long period of time could have a positive effect on cognitive abilities.

The results ultimately showed differences between participants who were 65 years of age or older. It found that those who had owned dogs continuously for more than five years had better cognitive abilities than those who had no pets or who had owned a pet for less than five years. Furthermore, the greatest benefit of dog ownership emerged as the superiority of long-term pet owners over the age of 65 in tests related to verbal memory. Researchers believe that oxytocin, known as the “love hormone” or “feel-good hormone”, plays a key role. Accordingly, the hormone not only has emotional effects but can also affect memory coding in humans at the neurological level. Senior citizens may benefit from an additional dose of oxytocin through long-term dog ownership not only emotionally but also cognitively.

This article contains only general information on the relevant health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. It in no way replaces a visit to a doctor. Unfortunately, our editorial team cannot answer individual questions about medical conditions.

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