HEALTH & LIFESTYLE

Dogs can help prolong the onset of dementia in older adults

Dementia today is a very debilitating disease in older adults. It majorly involves the entire brain and affects cognitive abilities, making the individual suffer a lot and lose entire memories in the process. Moreover, it also affects the daily functioning of individuals as the risk of falls and injuries increases tenfold.

However, there is hope for these patients as they can effectively prolong the onset of dementia in old age if they have or adopt a dog. Recently, studies have indicated that having dogs reduces dementia by 40%.

When adults in the age group of 65-84 found that those who had dogs as their companions had lesser chances of inviting dementia than those who didn’t. This is because a dog encourages exercise, and social interaction, and ultimately helps in keeping the brain active overall.

Additionally, having a pet also helps in reducing stress and anxiety levels but mostly improves the cognitive well-being of a person.

Says Dr Shantanu Kalambi on the positive effect of having a dog,

In the fast-paced rhythm of modern life, where stress and anxiety have become unwelcome companions, the therapeutic value of a four-legged friend cannot be overstated. Victor Hugo once reflected on this unique bond, saying, ‘A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself’. In the context of our mental well-being, this love takes on a therapeutic dimension, with dogs emerging as steadfast allies against modern epidemics of stress and anxiety. Beyond the warmth of their presence, studies suggest that this bond may extend its protective embrace to cognitive health, potentially lowering the risk of dementia.

Ways in which dogs can help prevent the onset of dementia

Here are a few ways in which our furry friends help our brains remain healthy and fit in old age.

Regular physical exercise

Having a dog allows us to have regular physical exercise with it. It may be either taking it for a walk or just playing with it at home. Not only does it improve our cardiovascular health, but it also reduces the factors related to dementia. Additionally, regular physical exercise also keeps cognition working and lesser the chance of getting cognitive diseases.

Reducing stress levels

It is a well-known fact that dogs help lower our stress levels and keep it to a bare minimum. Just seeing the face of our furry companion makes things so much better for us. Petting a dog itself is very therapeutic. If an individual remains in constant stress, then he/she can develop dementia earlier.

Increased social interaction and companionship

A dog keeps your social interactions and companionship levels at a high as you meet different people during walks with whom they form good bonds for a long time to come. Usually, older adults are left alone and isolated after their children move out of the home. This empty nest syndrome can be filled up once again with the presence of a furry friend. It also eliminates the chance of developing dementia.

Improving mental well-being

Dogs can improve an older adult’s overall mental well-being because then the pet parent has to be involved in various brain activities such as training, playing, and problem-solving with their pets. When faced with these challenges, the cognition of the individual improves greatly and they have better focus on various tasks and activities. It also creates a cognitive reserve in the brain that delays the onset of dementia.

Having a set routine

When you have a pet, it makes you create a set routine that must be followed every day. This allows pet parents to schedule their activities to suit their pet’s needs as well. Therefore, having a set routine reduces stress and also the risk of dementia.

Concluding, Dr Kalambi says,

While having a dog can offer these potential benefits, it’s essential to note that a holistic approach to brain health includes various factors such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation. It’s advisable to consult with healthcare professionals for personalised advice on dementia prevention strategies.

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