by Soojin Um
America is crazy about cats. Cat cafes are booming in popularity, cat videos are all the rage and getting “ragier” (that’s probably not a real word, but it should be), and more cats are kept as pets than any other animal. There’s little doubt that cats are the companions of choice for millions of Americans. However, is companionship all that they offer, or could they also be giving us another gift, the gift of life? For a lot of people who raise cats, that is exactly what they’re receiving in return.
A study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that cat owners were 40% less likely to die of a heart attack. Can we say: Drop the mic? This study, which began in the 1970s, was based on the participation of 4500 people from all walks of life. The study took into consideration the lifestyle choices, such as diet and smoking, etc., and the results still held up. What’s interesting is that data collected from people who owned dogs did not show any decrease in heart attack risks. Seriously, drop the mic.
Risk of stroke
If that wasn’t good enough news, researchers have also found that owning a cat can lower the risk of stroke by 30%. It seems logical considering that strokes are a part of cardiovascular function. Strokes can happen in two ways: the blocking of the blood vessels in the brain (what we most often associate as strokes), and the hemorrhaging of the blood vessels, also known as a bleeding stroke. One of the biggest risk factors for stroke is hypertension (high blood pressure), and a big risk factor for hypertension is stress. Cats help to reduce stress by just being there for us, being relaxed, and purring away as we unwind from our hectic day.
Heart health… in a different way
It all comes full circle, and everything is connected. Stress can cause high blood pressure, and that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Conversely, decreasing and managing stress can reduce those risks. How do cats help with that? Well, first of all, cats are chill. They don’t demand that you take them for a walk or play fetch in the park. Cats just want to hang out with you by doing pretty much nothing. If you have a job where everyone wants something from you all day long, this cat attitude can be a welcome change of pace. Less stress can lead to less cardiovascular issues. This, in turn, can mean a reduction in risk of heart related problems.
Cats can be magical. In fact, they used to be associated with witchcraft, though that wasn’t a happy time for them. Perhaps then it’s time that they are commended for their ability to heal our hearts and soothe our souls. They’re our quiet saviors.
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