People who have a cat can reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke by more than a third, researchers have found.
Owning a cat as a pet helps to relieve stress and anxiety, which is known to help protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing the heart rate.
Researchers at Minnesota University looked at 4,435 adults aged between 30 and 75, about half of whom owned a cat. The findings, presented at a stroke conference, showed that 3.4% of the cat owners died from a heart attack over 10 years. But among the group who had never owned a cat, the rate was nearly double.
Cat owners still had a much reduced chance of developing a stroke or heart attacks when researchers took account of other factors known to trigger heart disease, including excess weight and obesity, high cholesterol levels, smoking and Diabetes.
Study leader Professor Adnan Qureshi said he was surprised by the strength of the effect that owning a cat appeared to have.
“The logical explanation may be that cat ownership relieves stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of heart diseases,” he said.
Professor Qureshi believes one reason could be that stroking the pet may cut the level of stress-related hormones in the blood. But he added that the type of person who owned a cat was usually already fairly stress-free and at low risk of heart disease.
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