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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Buy a Cat for Christmas - Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack

Buy a Cat for Christmas - Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack
By: Jim Evans

DEAR JIM: My wife – 69 – has a calico cat, and she insists that this cat makes her feel better. She has even dressed it up for Christmas this year with a ribbon around its neck and jingle bells. Personally, I’m not a cat lover, and I tolerate this particular cat only because it seems to make my wife happy, but how can “a cat” make anyone feel better? I always thought dogs made people feel better, but cats??? SKEPTIC IN SKOKIE

DEAR SKEPTIC: Your wife probably has no idea WHY her cat makes her feel better but, believe it or not, recent research shows that cats may actually lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes by relieving the stress and anxiety typically linked to coronary disease and heart attacks.

Researchers for the Minnesota Stroke Institute in Minneapolis found that “people who do not own cats have a 40% higher risk of dying from a myocardial infarction than people who do keep cats as pets,” according to Adnan Qureshi, M.D. “We did not find a significant difference between people who owned dogs or other pets” (“ASA: Cats May Protect Owners Against Cardiovascular Death,” by Ed Susman, MedPage Today, February 21, 2008).

“Cats are, by and large, easier to care for and more manageable, especially among older persons,” said Qureshi. “Cats also tend to help build a person’s self-esteem, which could be diminished by risk factors for heart attacks such as obesity, mobility, or injury. We know that cats are helpful in rehabilitation from injuries and illnesses such as stroke.”

Results should still considered preliminary, but if the findings can be substantiated, cat ownership might be considered as a cost-effective intervention in reducing heart attacks and possibly other forms of cardiovascular disease such as stroke for high-risk individuals according to Qureshi.

Sounds like you might want to jump on the kitty bandwagon and make friends with your wife’s cat or buy one for yourself to reduce your stress level. Your local pet shelter probably has a nice selection to choose from in time for Christmas – even for a crusty old cat hater like you. Chill out and appreciate that your wife might be right on this one.

Jim Evans is a 41-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and internationally recognized fitness consultant. Send your questions about health and fitness to

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