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How Domesticated Animals Prolong One's Life (Research Paper by Abby Stovall)

goosegonecrazy 1 / 1  
Dec 18, 2020   #1
Please look specifically at:
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Pets Make the Ultimate Roommates: How Domesticated Animals Prolong One's Life

Despite being one of the most developed countries in the world, the United States is known for its high rates of obesity and poor diet. Other countries constantly poke fun at fat Americans or enormous portion sizes at American restaurants. Many Americans struggle with chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, while others fail to manage health conditions, like hypertension. As a developed country, the U.S. relies heavily on medicinal treatments with the average American more likely to choose prescriptions over any other treatment. As more research is being done on the interactions between domesticated animals and humans, it is evident that pets can positively impact one's physical and mental health. Some mental health benefits are well known, such as making one more social or feel less stressed. The positive physiological effects of owning or interacting with a pet are less known but just as significant. Because of the substantial results that have come from research about the human-animal bond, pets may be a solution for increased longevity and improved health for Americans. As an alternative treatment to fight the current health crisis in the U.S., more Americans should buy and spend time with a pet.

The American health crisis is a major issue. Although the U.S. has spent billions of dollars on healthcare, Americans are still considered unhealthy by global standards. According to the CIA's 2017 ranking of life expectancies in the world, the U.S. was listed as the forty-third country for life expectancy ("COUNTRY COMPARISON"). Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are some of the diseases that Americans are likely to develop, which contribute to such a low life expectancy, especially for a developed country. Many chronic diseases and conditions are interconnected. For example, hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease, while obesity is a risk factor for Type II diabetes. One chronic disease, heart disease, is a major issue in the U.S. Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is responsible for one in four U.S. deaths, making it the leading cause of death ("Heart Disease Facts"). Despite spending billions of dollars on research and constantly manufacturing new medicines, Americans' health continues to be poor.

One of the main problems with the health crisis in the U.S. is how people treat their conditions. Currently, Americans attempt to ineffectively manage their present health issues in three main ways. The majority of Americans probably rely on prescriptions from their doctors. Unfortunately, by relying solely on medications, people surrender their personal responsibility of caring for their health to a collection of pills. If one completely depends on a prescription, he then limits his life expectancy to the effectiveness of the medication. Another way that Americans manage their health is through changing their diet. While eating more fresh produce and fewer processed foods is beneficial for one's health, it can be difficult to sustain over a long period of time. Americans are also encouraged to increase their physical activity. Like a healthy diet, physical exercise can be very advantageous. Exercise can help lower the risk of developing certain diseases, increase the strength of one's bones, and strengthen one's heart. However, like a healthy diet, it can be challenging to maintain for the rest of one's life. While some of these treatments are healthy, they might be ineffective if not constantly followed. In order to fight against these diseases and health conditions, more alternative solutions are being examined, such as pets.

To begin, pets can decrease one's risk of developing heart disease by lowering one's levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a type of fat found in one's body. One risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol. U.S. citizens are especially at risk for high cholesterol because of two well-known characteristics of American culture: fatty diets and obesity. Cholesterol, usually from foods high in saturated fats, can build up in a person's arteries and begin to block blood flow. Enough fat buildup can cause cardiovascular disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the article "About Pets and People" argues that people who did not own dogs tend to have higher cholesterol levels than dog owners ("About Pets and People"). By minimizing a major risk factor, or high cholesterol, pets could save their owners from dying from America's most prevalent disease. Andrea Beetz, a Swedish researcher, and her colleagues, in their 2012 journal article ""Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin" claims that pet ownership is a protective factor against cardiovascular disease (Beetz). Furthermore, by avoiding heart disease, pet owners could potentially also live longer. Because pets, especially dogs, decrease their owners' cholesterol and prevent the development of heart disease, pets significantly improve their owners' health and life expectancy.

In addition to decreasing their owners' cholesterol levels, pets also lower their owners' chance of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing their owners' blood pressure. High blood pressure is also a common health issue for Americans. Like cholesterol, chronic high blood pressure, known as hypertension, is another risk factor for heart disease. When the heart pumps out too much blood or there is fat buildup in the blood vessel, the heart pumps more blood, causing a strong pressure against the vessel walls. Over time, this constant pressure can negatively impact the heart or blood vessels. However, pets may be able to decrease the number of hypertension cases. The Psychologist article "The Value of Pets for Human Health" states that a person's blood pressure will drop significantly to a healthy level when stroking a pet ("The Value of Pets"). Through the action of petting an animal, one could dramatically lower their risk of heart disease, which could consequently increase one's longevity and future health. Because pets affect both human cholesterol levels and blood pressure, pets might be more effective and beneficial than a single blood pressure prescription.

Moreover, pets can lower more than cholesterol or blood pressure; they can reduce cortisol levels too. Cortisol is the human body's stress hormone that can negatively affect one's body if one is chronically stressed. For example, chronic stress can lead to diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, high cholesterol, and migraines ("Stress Effects"). Some of the effects of stress are the same diseases or health conditions that are extremely prevalent in American society. As a result of the frequency of stress in the U.S., any American retail stores sell over-the-counter "stress-relief" products. Some channels on YouTube are devoted to teaching meditation to lower one's stress or anxiety. As demonstrated by these items, American society is chronically stressed and in search of a solution. One researcher, Maria Petersson, in her journal article "Oxytocin and Cortisol Levels in Dog Owners and Their Dogs Are Associated with Behavioral Patterns: An Exploratory Study" asserts that when humans and dogs interact, the human's cortisol levels go down(Petersson). Americans, like other people around the world, struggle to manage their stress. Often, people try a range of treatments including meditation, exercise, and medicine. While meditation and exercise are both positive methods to deal with stress, interacting with pets requires less time and effort, something Americans typically value. Similar to reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, lower levels of cortisol resulting from interacting with pets could possibly lengthen one's life expectancy. In summary, pets can serve as effective ways to cope with chronic stress.

While pets can drastically reduce one's unhealthy levels of cholesterol and cortisol, pets can also raise one's levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that has many positive effects on the human body. Some of its effects include "anti-stress-like effects such as reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases pain thresholds[...and] stimulates various types of positive social interaction. In addition, it promotes growth and healing" (Uvnas-Moberg). Oxytocin is often praised for producing such beneficial results. While normally present during childbirth, lactation, or sex, recent research is revealing that oxytocin may be present in human-dog interactions. One study discovered that oxytocin levels increase in both dogs and their owners during interaction (Petersson). This upward spike in oxytocin may cause dog owners to be more social, heal faster, and have less stress. In this way, oxytocin acts as a catalyst for many other beneficial activities or effects. For example, because oxytocin promotes socializing, dog owners also receive the numerous benefits of socializing. By encouraging the release of oxytocin in their owners, which improves healing and socialization and by fights against stress, dogs considerably augment their owners current and future health.

Lastly, pets can enhance one's immune system temporarily. The human immune system fights infections and kills cancer cells. As people travel and interact with new people, they are exposed to new antigens, or foreign molecules. To prevent the body from getting sick, the immune system creates antibodies, such as immunoglobins, to attach to the antigens and attract other immune cells to destroy the foreign antigens. A strong immune system works quickly to detect and destroy antigens along with producing a fast recovery. As people age, their immune systems begin to break down and become less effective at fighting off infections or recovering quickly. An older person's immune system is slower to respond and to heal ("Aging Changes"). As a result, elderly people are more at risk from dying from an infection or having a weak immune system than younger people. Thus, it is important that elderly people, in order to have a longer life, must do something to enhance their immune systems. Pets might be able to help. A study done in 2004 states that university students who did not interact with a live dog had a significantly lower amount of immunoglobin A in their saliva compared to students who stroked a live dog (Beetz). The presence of immunoglobins indicate if a person has an effective immune system. By simply interacting with a dog for a few minutes, these college students' immune systems were drastically improved, meaning they are more equipped to destroy antigens. Because the students' immune systems functioned more effectively, pets might be able to prolong their owners' lives if people constantly interact with their pets. By being around a domesticated animal all day, an elderly person can receive repeated immune boosts over time, which can make them live longer. Through owning a pet, which has been proven to increase the functioning of one's immune system, one can live a healthier and potentially longer life.

For short term improvements, Americans should spend time interacting with domesticated animals in public areas. As shown in various studies, a pet can temporarily reduce one's cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. Finding a public space in the United States to pet an animal is not difficult. Many public universities provide stress-relieving activities for students, especially around finals week. One of these activities usually includes petting a dog. Even hospital patients can have the opportunity to interact with an animal. Some hospitals offer therapy animals to comfort injured or sick people. Pet shops in malls or pet shelters can also provide humans with chances to play with dogs or cats. As another option, people can choose to interact with their friends' pets as well. By spending a short amount of time with pets, one can short-term health benefits, like a reduced risk for developing heart disease, without needing to buy and care for a pet. If a person constantly interacts with animals, he may receive longer-lasting and more effective health benefits too. This option might be best for people who cannot afford a pet, are extremely busy, or are mildly allergic to pets. Even without purchasing a pet, a person can improve his or her physical health from interacting with one.

For a more effective treatment and longer-lasting effects, U.S. citizens should buy or adopt pets. Pet ownership may cause people to participate in more physical activity. Physical exercise can have multiple benefits for one's health. For example, the CDC encourages people to exercise regularly to prevent developing heart disease ("Prevent Heart Disease"). Regular physical activity is recommended by the healthcare community to prevent a wide variety of diseases or conditions, including obesity, which is a major issue in the U.S. Owning a pet comes with various advantages, such as physical exercise. Pets, especially dogs, typically require regular walking, which, in turn, causes pet owners to exercise frequently. Studies have shown that "Dog owners are more likely to get the prescribed 30 minutes of exercise per day" than non-owners (Cline 119). Through owning a dog, a person is more likely to exercise and therefore receive the health benefits that come from physical activity. However, physical activity is not the only advantage to owning a pet rather than solely interacting with one for short, infrequent periods of time.

Pets are also known for extending their owners' life expectancies. One study found that pet owners who had heart disease were more likely to live a longer life than people who had heart disease but did not own pets (Beetz). By living with pets, pet owners are constantly interacting with animals that are known to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and cortisol and raise oxytocin; thus, their pets are repeatedly lowering their owners' risks for developing chronic diseases that are prevalent in the United States. This treatment method is probably most valuable for people who are not allergic to pet hair and have the time and money to afford a pet. Current pet owners should also spend time with their pets if they are looking to prevent or treat chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Ultimately, Americans should interact with pets for a short period of time or buy a pet in order to counteract the current health crisis. The pet-owner bond is a mutually beneficial relationship that is gaining more attention in the research field. Numerous studies have manifested the various health benefits of owning a pet, such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and cortisol, or increasing oxytocin and physical exercise. Compared to exercise, meditation, and pharmaceuticals, pets can offer a healthier, more effective alternative to living a longer and healthier life. For being such a powerful, industrialized country, the U.S. should not settle for being known as unhealthy. Americans should take responsibility for their own health and fight against the health crisis to increase the life expectancy. If the U.S. can turn the health crisis around, Americans could eventually lead the world in life expectancy, something of which to be proud not embarrassed. The land of obesity could one day be the land of ultimate fulfillment. The U.S. is superior in many ways; why should Americans settle for a quality of life that is lower than in other countries?

Works Cited
Sadeeq0705 1 / 2  
Dec 21, 2020   #2
An excellent essay, but you need to relate your essay with more facts to make it more interesting.
OP goosegonecrazy 1 / 1  
Dec 21, 2020   #3
@Sadeeq0705 Ok. Thank you. I will look into that.

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