5 ways owning a dog can keep dementia at bay - Hindustan Times
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5 ways owning a dog can keep dementia at bay

By, New Delhi
Dec 05, 2023 12:59 PM IST

A new study says dog owners are at 40% lesser risk of dementia. There company not only provides joy and comfort but can also work wonders for brain health.

Being a pet parent is one of the ways to beat dementia, the much-dreaded brain disorder that starts with memory loss and progresses to inability to do daily chores. A new Japanese study says owning a dog can reduce dementia risk by 40% in adults over 65. The study with 11,000 participants between the age of 65-84 found that dog owners had lower dementia risk as dog ownership encourages regular exercise and interaction with people, that helps keep the brain healthy. Having a furry friend not only keep stress and anxiety levels in check but also contribute greatly to the cognitive well-being. (Also read | Mystery respiratory illness affecting dogs across the United States)

The study with 11,000 participants between the age of 65-84 found that dog owners had lower dementia risk as dog ownership encourages regular exercise and interaction with people(Freepik)
The study with 11,000 participants between the age of 65-84 found that dog owners had lower dementia risk as dog ownership encourages regular exercise and interaction with people(Freepik)

"In the fast-paced rhythm of modern life, where stress and anxiety have become unwelcome companions, the therapeutic value of a four-legged friend cannot be overstated. Victor Hugo once reflected on this unique bond, saying, 'A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.' In the context of our mental well-being, this love takes on a therapeutic dimension, with dogs emerging as steadfast allies against the modern epidemics of stress and anxiety. Beyond the warmth of their presence, studies suggest that this bond may extend its protective embrace to cognitive health, potentially lowering the risk of dementia," says Dr Shantanu Kalambi, Chief Veterinary Officer, Supertails.

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HOW OWNING A DOG REDUCES RISK OF DEMENTIA

As we navigate the complex landscape of mental health, the simple act of sharing our lives with a dog can positively impact cognitive health and potentially lower the risk of dementia.

Dr Kalambi explains how:

1. Increased physical activity: Dogs require regular exercise, such as daily walks or playtime. Engaging in physical activities helps improve cardiovascular health and reduces the risk factors associated with dementia. Regular exercise has been linked to better cognitive function and a lower likelihood of developing cognitive disorders.

2. Stress reduction: Interacting with dogs has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels. The act of petting a dog can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and stress reduction. Chronic stress is considered a risk factor for dementia, and the calming influence of a dog may help mitigate this risk.

3. Social interaction and companionship: Dogs are social animals, and their companionship can combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social engagement is crucial for maintaining cognitive function, and having a dog can provide a consistent source of social interaction, especially for individuals who live alone.

4. Mental stimulation: Caring for a dog involves various activities, including training, playing, and problem-solving. These mental challenges stimulate the brain and may help maintain cognitive function. Regular mental stimulation is thought to create a cognitive reserve that can potentially delay the onset of dementia.

5. Routine and structure: Dogs thrive on routine, and their owners often adopt similar schedules to meet their pets' needs. Establishing and adhering to a daily routine can be beneficial for mental health. Predictable routines contribute to reduced stress levels and may help protect against cognitive decline.

"While having a dog can offer these potential benefits, it's essential to note that a holistic approach to brain health includes various factors such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation. It's advisable to consult with healthcare professionals for personalised advice on dementia prevention strategies," concludes Dr Kalambi.

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