A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan in the United States showed that the benefits of owning a pet go beyond reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. The human-animal relationship also plays an important role in protecting the cognitive ability of the elderly.
The scientists analyzed data from 1,369 people with an average age of 65 enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal US survey. The participants had normal cognitive abilities at the start of the research. In all, 53% reported having pets, and 32% had been pet owners for five years or more.
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Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are neurodegenerative diseases that mainly affect the elderly. Conditions are progressive, and over time, the patient becomes more dependent on the care of others.Getty Images
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It is common, in the initial stage, to confuse symptoms with the normal aging process. However, family members and close people should be aware of the signs Getty Images
It is also important to seek help from doctors, because the earlier the diagnosis is made, the greater the chances of controlling the condition and delaying the development of diseases, as well as improving the quality of life of patients.disclosure
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Parkinson’s disease causes the death of neurons that produce dopamine and play an important role in the motor system. Men are most affectedPixabay
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The patient’s family members should pay attention to the first signs of lethargy, muscle stiffness, and frequent tremors, which are the most characteristic of this condition.Pixabay
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Alzheimer’s disease, in turn, affects more of the female population. It causes the degeneration and death of neurons, which leads to a gradual change in brain function.Pixabay
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The most frequent consequences are impairment of memory, behaviour, thinking and ability to learn.Pixabay
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Dementia is progressive and the initial symptoms are well known: memory loss and confusion are the most common. The condition affects up to 25% of people over the age of 85 in BrazilPixabay
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Speech problems and difficulty making decisions are also signs. However, there are other subtle signs that can alert the development of some types of degenerative diseases. Pixabay
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Vision problems: A UK Biobank study showed that people with age-related macular degeneration were 25% more likely to develop dementia.Pixabay
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Hearing loss: may be associated with cellular changes in the brain. But loss of sight and hearing can lead to social isolation, which has been known for years as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.Brazil Agency
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Mood swings: People with early dementia stop finding jokes funny or don’t understand situations that they used to find amusing and may find it difficult to understand sarcasm Pixabay
Gum problems: Research shows that oral health is linked to mental problems and may also be linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and alcohol abuse — all of which are risk factors for dementia.reproduction
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Social isolation: Symptoms can increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. A lack of patience with friends and family and a preference for being alone could be signs of brain chemical problems or vitamin deficiencies.Pixabay
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Other signs that may indicate a neurodegenerative disease are: lack of interest in usual activities, difficulty performing daily tasks, repetitive conversations or tasks, disorientation in familiar places, and difficulty memorizing.Pixabay
With the help of cognitive tests — memory exercises with words, subtraction, and numerical counting — the scientists assigned a score to each participant, ranging from zero to 27. The score was used to correlate cognitive function with the time the participants cared for their pets.
Over a six-year period, the cognitive function of elderly people with pets was observed to decline at a slower pace compared to those without pets. Those who took care of the animals for the longest benefited, receiving a score of up to 1.2 higher than the others.
A companion animal can increase physical activity, which may benefit cognitive health. However, more research is needed to confirm our findings and identify the mechanisms behind this association,” study author Tiffany Braley, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical Center, said in the paper.
The study data still needs peer review for publication in a scientific journal. It will be presented in April at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.