Harvard Health Letter

New finding: Purrrvention

Cats owners are 40% less likely to die from a heart attack than people who don't own cats, according to news reports about research presented at an American Stroke Association meeting in New Orleans in February 2008.

The kitty-kat protection extended to other cardiovascular woes as well, including stroke.

But dogs and other kinds of pets were not associated with lower cardiovascular risk, according to the researchers at the Minneapolis Stroke Institute, whose findings were based on data culled from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study.

The researchers speculated that having a cat around might help lower cardiovascular risk by reducing anxiety and stress, which is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The findings were published as an abstract at the conference, so they must be taken with a grain of salt. Although intriguing, most abstracts fail to get published as full-length, peer-reviewed articles.