Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

January 2, 2009

Table of Contents

  • A Warm and Fuzzy New Year (Introduction to special issue)
  • Furry Friends (The healing power of pets)
  • Try a Cat for Heart Health (Purr-fect rhythm)
  • The Literary Pet (Quotable quotes)

A Warm and Fuzzy New Year

Here at the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), we're starting off 2009 on a light -- you might even say "fluffy" -- note. To our readers who are devoted to a beloved companion pet, here's to your good health. And, to all of our Experience! readers, have a vibrant and invigorating new year!


Furry Friends

Critters for the Cure is a Gaithersburg MD-based agency that puts a face on breast cancer and partners with community organizations to form breast cancer alliances. One effective consciousness-raising activity the group performs is producing its annual Critters Calendar, which features breast cancer survivors and their pets. The 2009 calendar includes 13 human models along with 13 dogs and puppies, two cats, and a guinea pig named Lily.

Critters for the Cure raises funds for a special program called the Critters Patient Treatment Assistance Fund (CPTAF). It helps uninsured and under-insured women with the financial gaps in breast cancer care that are not covered by government assistance programs. This might include aid with medical bills and treatment-related transportation costs, or the purchase of wigs and anti-nausea drugs. It can provide additions to traditional medical care, for example, acupuncture, massage therapy, and biofeedback. CPTAF even helps pay for dog-walking and veterinary bills. That is because Critters for the Cure is a strong advocate for the healing power of pets.

For more information about Critters for the Cure, click on www.crittersforthecure.com. One poignant excerpt from the website discusses how dogs help their people: "They do something for us that rarely a human companion can do. No matter how ... many mistakes you make or how often you make them, regardless of your looks, income or social standing, your dog never judges you. He always thinks you are wonderful and loves you with all his heart."

Carol Guzy, writing for the Washington Post, interviewed the women who were photographed with their animal friends for the 2009 Critters Calendar. Describing how much her pets meant to her while she was battling breast cancer, one survivor said, "Just their warm heartbeat lying next to me was incredibly healing."


Try a Cat for Heart Health

Editor's note: As the new year begins, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank the many talented SFA writers who helped make Experience! such an informative -- and internationally popular -- newsletter in 2008. The list includes, but is not limited to: Jan Montague, Jerry Hart, Dr. Terri Katz, Andy Baxter, Gregg Goodrich, a number of outstanding authors whose works we reprinted from previous SFA publications, and of course our industrious SFA staff writers! We are wishing all of you an excellent 2009. And that brings us to our most prolific freelance contributer of all, Jim Evans. Jim is a 41-year veteran of the health-fitness profession who regularly shares his knowledge and insights with the readers of Experience! Today, as always, he's right on-topic -- talking pets. Thanks and Happy New Year, Jim!

DEAR JIM: My wife, age 69, has a calico cat, and she insists that this cat makes her feel better. She even dressed it up for Christmas this year with a ribbon around its neck and jingle bells. Personally, I'm not a cat lover, and I tolerate this particular cat only because it seems to make my wife happy. But how can a cat make anyone "feel" better? I always thought dogs gave certain people an emotional lift, but cats??? SKEPTIC IN SKOKIE

DEAR SKEPTIC: Your wife probably has no idea why her cat makes her feel better but, believe it or not, recent research shows that cats may actually lower the risk of heart attack and stroke by helping to relieve the stress and anxiety typically linked to coronary disease.

Researchers for the Minnesota Stroke Institute in Minneapolis found that "people who do not own cats have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from a myocardial infarction than people who do keep cats as pets," according to Adnan Qureshi, MD. (Source: "Cats May Protect Owners Against Cardiovascular Death" by Ed Susman, MedPage Today)

"Cats are, by and large, easier to care for and more manageable [compared to many other kinds of pets], especially among older persons," said Qureshi. "Cats also tend to help build a person's self-esteem, which could be diminished by risk factors for heart attack such as obesity, mobility problems, or injury. We know that cats are helpful in rehabilitation from injuries and illnesses such as stroke."

These results should still be considered preliminary, but if the findings can be substantiated, cat ownership might be accepted as a cost-effective intervention in reducing heart attacks and possibly other cardiovascular events, such as stroke, for high-risk individuals, according to Dr. Qureshi.

Sounds like you might want to jump on the kitty bandwagon and make friends with your wife's cat or adopt one for yourself to reduce your stress level. Your local pet shelter has a nice selection to choose from -- even for a crusty old cat avoider like you. Chill out and appreciate that your wife might be right on this one!


The Literary Pet

Great thinkers have had much to say about cats and dogs throughout the years. Here are some memorable quotations from a few articulate fans of everything feline and canine:

"A cat improves the garden wall in sunshine, and the hearth in foul weather."

          -- Judith Merkle Riley

"The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too."

          -- Samuel Butler, Notebooks, 1912

"It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of one or more kittens."

          -- Cynthia E. Varnado

 

"There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face."

          -- Ben Williams

"I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through."

          -- Jules Verne

"Dogs are miracles with paws."

          -- Attributed to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

"Are we really sure the purring is coming from the kitty and not from our very own hearts?"

          -- Emme Woodhull-Bache, translated

"We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment."

          -- George Eliot

Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

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