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Active Living
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A Healthy Balance
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Active Kids, Healthy Kids
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Beat the Heat!
Cold Weather Workouts
Concussions
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Exercise in the Cold
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Exercise is Medicine
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FITT Prescription
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From Surviving to Thriving
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Get Moving!
Get Motivated
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Jump Start Weight Loss
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Live Actively
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Plantar Fasciitis
Prehistoric Workout
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Childbirth
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Advice from the Maternity Clinic
Advice from the Maternity Clinic (Part 2)
Alcohol in Pregnancy
Building a Better Baby
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Bleeding in Pregnancy
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Blue after Baby or Postpartum Depression
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Getting a latch on breastfeeding
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Prenatal Classes
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Planning a Pregnancy
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Prenatal Care Providers
Postpartum Repetitive Strain Injuries
RH Disease
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Sex During Pregnancy
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Smoking and Pregnancy
Support During Labour
Travelling While Pregnant
Ultrasound for Fun & Photos
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When Baby Comes Home
Childhood
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Feeding Your Baby
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How Children Grow
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Not Just Baby Fat
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When to go to the Doctor
Whooping Cough
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Chronic Pain
Full Listing with story descriptions
Introduction
Managing Your Pain
Movement Matters
Moving Forward
Nutrition
Opioids
Pacing
Pain Medications
Prevention
Returning to Work
Understanding and Goal Setting
When Pain Doesn't End
Dental Health
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Antibiotics and Dental Surgery
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Teeth
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Children's Dental Injuries
Choosing a Dentist
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First Dental Visit
Headaches
A Healthy Mouth
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Mouth Protection Equipment
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Root Canal
Seniors Oral Care
Sensitive Teeth
The Smile You Want
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Smiling through the Senior Years
Teeth for Life
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
Tobacco Risks to Oral Health
Tongue Piercing
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Travel Dentistry
Water Fluoridation
Wisdom Teeth
Your Healthy Smile
DIABETES
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10,000 Steps
A1C Test
Accurate Blood Glucose Testing
Alchohol and Diabetes
A Diabetes Success Story
ABCs of Diabetes Management
Alternate Site Testing
Artery Health
ASA Therapy
Benefits of Insulin
Benefits of Breakfast
Blood Glucose Medications
Blood Glucose Myths
Blood Glucose Testing
Blood Glucose Testing Tips
Blood Sugar Lows
Blood Glucose Monitors
C-Peptide Testing
Canada Food Guide Revisited
Carbohydrate Counting
Catastrophic Drug Plan
CDA Guidelines for Diabetes
Celiac Disease and Diabetes
Childhood Diagnosis of Diabetes
Children and Type 2 Diabetes
Cholesterol-lowering Medications
Colds and Diabetes
Constipation
Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring
Cutting Edge
Debunking Diabetes Myths
Driving and Diabetes
Diabetes and Menopause
Diabetes and OTC Medications
Diabetes Care Team
Diabetes and Celiac
Diabetes and Depression
Diabetes Diet
Diabetes Eating on a Shoestring Budget
Diabetes Etiquette
Diabetes and Oral Health
Diabetes and Thyroid Disease
Diabetes and Your Mouth
Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetes in Cats
Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes Management ABCs
Diabetes Meter Technicians
Diabetes Myths
Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Diabetic Retinopathy
Diet Tips for South Asians
Dining Out
Drinking and Diabetes
The Discovery of Insulin
Eating Disorders
Easing the Strain of Stress
Eating to Protect Your Kidneys
Eggs in a Diabetic Diet
Emotional Eating
Emotions of Diabetes Diagnosis
Erectile Dysfunction
Exercise Excuses
Why Fad Diets Fail
Fats
Fibre
Fill Your Day with Energy
Financial Support for Diabetes
Food Temptation
Foot Care
Footwear and Foot Health
Fruits and Veggies
Gastroparesis
Gestational Diabetes
Get Active
Get Physical
Gift Ideas
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Loads
The Glycemic Index
Going Green in the Kitchen
Grocery Shopping Tips
Guidelines for Diabetes Management
Holiday Party Survival Guide
Health Information on the 'Net
Healthy Happy Holidays
Healthy Beverage Choices
Health Benefits of Soy
Healthy Restaurant Meals
High Blood Pressure and Diabetes
High Blood Pressure
HbA1c Test
Healthy Eating for Active People
High Blood Lipids
Home from the Hospital
Home Alone and Sick
Hypoglycemic Unawareness
Impaired Glucose Tolerance
Immunization & Diabetes
Incretins-a Hormone Treatment
Injecting Insulin
Insulin Discovery-The Story
Insulin
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Insulin - the Key to Energy Management
Insulin Pumps
Insulin Pen Needles
Insulin Pump Infusion Sets
Insulin Pump Therapy
Immunization and Diabetes
Internet Health Sites
Islet Cell Transplantation
Insurance
Ketones
Kidney Disease - Reducing the Risk
Living with Diagnosis of Diabetes
Living Powerfully with Diabetes
Low Blood Glucose
Managing Diabetes
Managing Blood Glucose
Metformin
Nutrition Food Labels
Meal Planning
Your Medication Expert
Medication Research Studies
Metabolic Syndrome
Microalbuminuria
New Diabetes Technologies
Natural Medicines and Diabetes
No Need for Insulin?
Not Snoozing
Over-the-Counter Medications
Oral Health and Diabetes
Osteoporosis and Diabetes
Diabetes and OTC Medications
Pedicure Precautions
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Pet Diabetes
Planning for Pregnancy
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Preparing for Activity
Putting off Insulin
Reducing Stress of Surgery
Safe and Successful Travel
Schizophrenia and Diabetes
Sensible Snacking
Setting Health Goals
Setting Goals for Physical Activity
Sharps Disposal
Shorter Insulin Needles
Sleep - a Missing Link
Smart Snacking
Smart Summer Nutrition
Snack Bars
Snacking with Diabetes
Sodium
Social Media & Diabetes
Solving the Insurance Puzzle
Stress and Diabetes
Success in School
Supplements
Supporting Spouse with Diabetes
Sweeteners
Sugar, Carbs and Blood Glucose Control
Think Positive with Diabetes
Tiny Bites Equal Big Calories
Traveling with Diabetes
Tips for a Better You
Tobacco Use and Diabetes
Top 10 Reasons to Exercise
Treating Low Blood Glucose
Treating Hypoglycemia - Role of Glucagon
Tune up Your Diet
Type 1.5 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes Medications
Understanding Ketones
Used Sharps
Urinary Incontinence
Vacationing with Diabetes
Vegetarian Eating for Diabetes
Vitamin D
Walking
Wise Choices About Natural Medicines
Wonderful Water
Natural Medicines & Diabetes
World Diabetes Day
Your Medicine Cupboard
Zimbabwe Hand Jive
Family Medicine
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ADHD in Children
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Allergies
Antibiotic Use
Arthritis
Aspirin Every Day?
Asthma
Back Pain
Back Pain Myths
Back Pain - Lower
Birth Control
Bladder Problems
Blood Transfusions
Breaast and Prostate Cancer Screening
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Check-Up
Colon Cancer Screening
Contact Lenses
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Cost of Doctor's Visit
Diabetes Management
Diarrhea
Diagnostic Tests
Do I Need a Bone Density Test?
Doctor Visit
Driving Vision
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Does My Sore Knee Require an MRI?
Do I Need an Annual Physical?
Eczema
Electronic Medical Records
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Family Doctor
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Floaters and Flashes
Food Poisoning
5 Ways to Stay Healthy
Gallbladder
Get Active!
Glare
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How to Talk to Your Doctor
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Medical Digital Technology
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Opioid Myths
Primary Healthcare Reform
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Restore Your Core
Rosacea
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Special Diagnostic Tests
Stopping Stroke
Stroke
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Vaccination Controversies (ask the doctor)
Win by Losing
Urinary Tract Infections
Vision Flickers
First Aid
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Bites and Stings
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Cuts and Scrapes
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First Aid Travel Kit
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Poisoning - Household
Emergency Care Guidelines
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Growing Older
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Advance Care Plans
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Get Active!
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Modern Living
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Canada's New Blood System
Caring for a Loved One Dying at Home
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Diabetes Epidemic
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Outdoor Workers and Sun Safety
Patient Safety in the Hospital
Pets and Health Benefits
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Planning for End of LIfe
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Schizophrenia
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Soy
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5 Tips to Manage Weight
10 Ways to Cut Down on Fat
Battle the Bulge
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Energy Drinks
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Food for Active Kids
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Healthy Diet, Healthy Smile
Healthy Eating for Boomers and Zoomers
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Healthy Eating on Business Travel
Healthy Ethnic Meals
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Fruits & Veggies - 5-10 a Day
Fats
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Feeding Your Kids
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Food Chemistry 101
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Healthy Eating for Teens
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New Ingredients for Your Shopping Cart
Iron
Kid's Food
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Mercury Levels in Fish
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After a Heart Attack
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Family Health Magazine - MODERN LIVING

Pets and Health Benefits
Is man's best friend protecting your health?

The secret to a healthier life may be on the other side of a cold, wet nose. Puppy love may even help to keep people out of the doctor's office.

There has been growing interest in the last 10 years in studying the health benefits of pet interaction with humans. This interest is evident among researchers around the world. Health benefits of pets have been shown across the lifespan from childhood to older age. The setting can be the home, the school, a hospital or a long-term care facility. Research has largely centred on the health benefits of dogs and cats.

How can pets improve our health?

Companionship and reliable relationships. Pets are reliable as a presence around the home. They can help fill the void when there are no children in the home. They can enrich lives with their personalities.

Pets are more than just company. Pet owners form relationships with their pets that are similar, although less complex, to relationships with humans. Pets can be reliable, faithful and responsive (usually) to commands. Pet owners can relax with pets as there is no pressure to act a certain way. They accept their owner without judgement.

The bond with pets is subtle. Because pets cannot speak, owners look for cues in their behaviour such as a cat's arched back or a dog's wagging tail. This understanding of the body language of pets leads to better communication strengthening the bond between pets and owners.

Modern lifestyles can create loneliness and companion animals counteract this. Pet owners are less likely to feel lonely and 58 per cent of those who responded to an Australian survey said they met and made friends through their pets. Pets are also associated with traditional family life. They emphasize home, family and simple joys of childhood in a time when relationships were more valued than material possessions or mechanical gadgets.

About 59 per cent of American households have some kind of pet. There are more pets than children in America. The great increase in pet ownership may reflect a big city population's unsatisfied need for intimacy, nurture and contact with nature.

Pet owners are viewed as decent, animal-loving individuals whose homes are softer, more natural places because of the presence of a pet. Pets help to reduce stress by demanding the owners attend to the time-consuming routines of feeding, cleaning and exercising that help regulate and slow the pace of life. Time with a pet is a 'time-out.'

Improved physical health resulting in fewer visits to the doctor. Studies as far back as 1980 suggest the benefits of companion animals to humans. It was not clear, however, whether the pets influence a person's health or that perhaps, someone who is in better health has a pet. In 1990, Dr. Judith Siegel from the University of California examined a thousand patients, taking into account living conditions, chronic diseases and education level. She found people without pets averaged 9.49 visits to the doctor in one year while pet owners had 8.42 visits.

In 1992 in Australia, Dr. W. P. Anderson of the Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne studied 5,700 volunteer cardiac patients. The results showed pet owners, especially men, had lower blood pressure, lower levels of triglycerides and lower cholesterol than those without pets. Pet owners reported they took significantly more exercise than non-owners, and ate more meat and takeout food. The differences persisted even when researchers adjusted for smoking habits, diets, body mass index and income.

Another interesting aspect of Dr. Siegel's study was that pet owners spent an average of 1.4 hours outside each day with their dogs. Pets can motivate people to become more physically active which strengthens the heart muscle, improves blood circulation and slows the loss of bone tissue. The capacity of a dog to motivate a person to be more physically active may be one of the most important contributions pets make to human health.

Dr. S. Barker, a researcher at the Medical College of Virginia, put forth a theory that pets comfort the sick because of their ability to kindle emotion. Her patients on a psychiatric ward attended either a therapy recreation session or spent half an hour with a therapy dog. After each encounter, both groups completed questionnaires that measured scores for anxiety levels.

She found the presence of a dog reduced anxiety to levels the recreation sessions did not. Psychotic patients showed a two-fold drop in anxiety levels. Dr. Beck at Perdue University School of Veterinary Medicine in Indiana reported similar observations. Pets can soothe stress and relax people. About half of the nursing homes in Indiana have some kind of animal therapy programs.

Studies of health benefits of pet programs in long-term care settings suggest a benefit for at least some older people from animal visitation programs. The presence of animals seems to help them smile and talk more, show more alertness, and have greater well-being and less depression. Those in contact with animals react better to treatment, and have a greater will to recover and to live.

Animal programs in nursing homes help people to be more independent. A puppy does not care if a person is in a wheelchair or cannot walk. It just wants undivided affection and attention.

Pet programs provide more benefits in the way people respond than alternative therapies such as arts and crafts, friendly visitors, and conventional psychotherapy. Pet therapy has helped patients overcome withdrawal and detachment. Pets are being used to help the mentally handicapped and stroke victims recover their speech without being held back by self-consciousness.

A 1998 study at the University of British Columbia showed that pets can actually lower medical costs by shortening recovery times. A random sample of elderly people living in the community was selected. They were interviewed at the beginning of the study and one year later.

Pet owners used medical services 30 times compared to 37 times by non-pet owners. Overnight hospital stays were an average of eight days for pet owners and 13 days for non-pet owners. It appears that pet ownership helps elderly people cope with stressful events without using the health care system for support. A pet can help people cope with the loss of a leved one and adapt to changing circumstances.

A big part in the lives of children

Children love their pets and develop special comforting relationships with them. Studies have shown children with pets develop higher self-esteem and improved social skills. They learn about responsibility, gentle handling, animal behaviour and death. Pets can also act as security blankets, unquestioning confidantes and valuable companions for children. Children's relationships with pets are generally in addition to other relationships rather than a substitute. It is also important for children to learn to care about something other than themselves.

Other benefits of pet ownership. Pets have proved invaluable in a number of roles. Examples are guide dogs for the blind, 'hearing' and assistance dogs for disabled people and in horseback riding for those with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Factors to consider before you get a pet

If you are thinking of getting a pet, consider the risks of infection and allergic reactions for you and your family. Before getting a pet, you should be familiar with the habits of the animal and the proper care needed, as well as the potential of the animal as a carrier of diseases.

As a pet owner you should:

This advice is not intended to discourage you from having a pet. Pets can enrich the lives of everyone around them but there is no doubt that you should use common sense with your animal.

In summary, compared to non-pet owners, people who have pets:

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FAMILY HEALTH is written with the assistance of
Alberta College of Family Physicians
FAMILY HEALTH is written
with the assistance of
The College of Family Physicans of Canada
Alberta College of Family Physicians
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6    [ML_FHa00]
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