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BLOG: To improve your health, get a dog

Wednesday - 5/1/2013, 10:03am  ET

WASHINGTON -- Owning a pet has health benefits. This might be news to a lot of readers, but not to me.

I've had pets since before I could leave the yard of my parents' house. My parents' boxer, Duke, would pull my shorts down if I ventured too close to leaving the yard. This was his way of keeping me close and letting my mother know I was trying to escape.

My current dog, Diesel, the red-nose pit bull, is not only my pet, but my best friend. And his presence definitely has health benefits -- as far as I'm concerned. He always thinks I'm the smartest guy in the room. The reason for this: I am the only guy in the room! Diesel never suffers from depression, and this rubs off on me as well. Coming home after a tough day at work and seeing Diesel in the window makes me laugh and makes me remember the small things in life. It helps take my mind off the things I can't control.

I have never known anyone who is a coach potato who owns a dog. Dogs make you get outside and do things, whether you like it or not. And we all know that "moving it" -- meaning your body -- will add years to your life.

Dogs and cats don't care how much money you make, or what golf course you belong to or if you have a platinum card. They just love you for who and what you are -- the guy who feeds them and throws the ball for them.

To them, you are the one they wait for and the one who rubs their belly. They just want to hang with you and to be in the same room. It's called unconditional love, and love is the best health benefit you can have.

Dr. Mark Hyman, a physician who writes for the Huffington Post, wrote a recent article detailing the many health benefits of what he calls "Vitamin P" -- that is, Vitamin Pet. Here are five of them:

  • Increased longevity after heart attacks
  • Lowered cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved blood vessel (endothelial) function
  • Increased physical activity and functioning

To read the rest, click here.

After reading these health benefits, if you don't own a pet, you might want to visit a shelter this weekend. You just might find your new best friend waiting for you.

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