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Having a dog can decrease your risk of dementia

They say a dog is a man’s best friend and now research is backing it up.

Scientists in Japan discovered that possessing a dog, regardless of its breed, diminishes the risk of dementia in individuals aged 65 and above by 40 per cent when compared to those without a canine companion. But before understanding why that is, let us first understand what dementia is.

Dementia, characterised by severe memory loss and difficulties in language, problem-solving, and cognitive functions that impede daily life, encompasses various conditions, with Alzheimer’s being the most prevalent, accounting for 60-80 per cent of cases, as stated by the US’ Alzheimer’s Association.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology conducted the study among 12,000 residents in the Japanese city, revealing that dog ownership prompts increased outdoor activity, fostering more human-to-human interactions and providing essential brain exercise.

This is significant, considering the World Health Organization’s report indicating that 55 million people worldwide are currently living with dementia.

How can dogs help decrease the risk of dementia

Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, agreed saying that “interacting with dogs can reduce stress, increase physical activity, and enhance social connections, all of which are factors known to support cognitive function and potentially reduce the risk of dementia.”

Additionally, Dordi noted that the emotional support derived and the routine associated with caring for a pet can positively impact mental well-being, which may play a role in reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

The active lifestyle associated with owning a dog promotes better blood circulation, decreases inflammation, and fosters the growth and maintenance of brain cells, all of which are beneficial for cognitive health.

“Things such as walking in parks and meeting other dog owners can also contribute to cognitive stimulation and emotional well-being, both of which are beneficial for brain health,” she said.

Moreover, Dordi said that the act of nurturing and caring for a pet can alleviate stress and anxiety, as interactions with dogs have been shown to lower cortisol levels and increase the production of oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone.

In essence, having a dog provides not only companionship and emotional support but also opportunities for routine, social interaction, stress reduction, and increased overall happiness, all of which are integral components of psychological well-being.

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