It's the cutest heart-attack prevention strategy we've heard of: own a cat.
A 10-year study at the University of Minnesota Stroke Center found that cat owners were 40 per cent less likely to have heart attacks than non-cat owners. A cat at home reduced the risk of other heart diseases and stroke by 30 per cent.
The researchers speculate there's a little health-boosting magic in that purr of contentment.
"Cats will purr when they're content, but also they'll purr when they're about to be euthanized. It's thought they purr to communicate with their kittens," said study author and animal behaviour consultant Steve Dale. "It's thought to be a calming mechanism."
"If that's the case...maybe they calm themselves or other cats, but maybe there's a fallout and there's another mammal species, us, that's impacted."
[See also: Cat soothes baby to sleep]
Pets have long been linked to health benefits: lowering blood pressure, stress levels, and encouraging exercise and socialization.
One study found that just watching a 'Lassie' movie can lower the stress hormone, cortisol.
Another determined that "the emotional benefits pet owners receive from animal companions could be the equal of a human friendship," with pet owners exhibiting higher self-esteem and less loneliness than their pet-less counterparts.
While these purring-cat-for-your-heart findings now require more research, Dale explains that the animal connection "alters our neurochemistry. Not just the physiology, the blood pressure change, which is significant, but also the neurochemistry. The scientists are discovering there really is a difference here."
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