27 December 2023

Scientists have explained why dogs and cats slow down the aging of their owners

Preserving cognitive function in the elderly is an important element of healthy aging. Scientists from different countries are working on ways to delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. One of the ways, as it turned out, is very simple: firstly, to get a pet, and secondly, to communicate and walk more with it. The study was reported by Oksana Drapkina, Director of the National Medical Center of Therapy and Preventive Medicine, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The study involved 637 generally healthy people aged 51 to 101 years, scientists observed their health for a year to 13 years. One in three volunteers (185 participants) had pets: 84 people were dog owners, 67 were cat owners, and the rest were owners of other animals. Dog owners were also asked to report how regularly they walked their pet.

"To assess cognitive functions, a composite test was used: executive and speech functions were tested, as well as the speed of information processing, attention, verbal, non-verbal and working memory," Prof. Drapkina told about the essence of the experiment.

Miracles did not happen: with age, cognitive functions decreased in all participants. But in pet owners this process was slower. And the slowest - in those who walked with their dog for a long time. At the same time, having a cat was associated with greater retention of verbal (word) memory.

"The study authors attribute the benefit of having pets to several mechanisms," notes Drapkina.

1) Increased physical activity. And previous large studies have shown that high physical activity improves cognitive function and slows cognitive decline in old age.

2) Interacting with animals switches between several cognitive processes, which activates neural connections in the brain. And this is good for the longevity of the brain.

3) An equally important factor is the reduction in chronic stress levels when socializing with an animal.

"So don't forget to pet your furry or not so furry pet once in a while - it's not only pleasant, but also very useful," the doctor concluded.

Found a typo? Select it and press ctrl + enter Print version