THE BLOG
03/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Mickey Rourke: Getting it Right

"Wins Globe, Thanks Dogs" screamed headlines around the world.

Although I am sure this was not a publicity seeking move, it became the single most important story to come of this year's Golden Globe award ceremony. Perhaps even bigger than his blockbuster performance!

"I'd like to thank all my dogs. The ones that are here, the ones that aren't here anymore because sometimes when a man's alone, that's all you got is your dog. And they've meant the world to me," said Mickey Rourke as he accepted the well-deserved award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama.

The Comeback King sent a real wake up call to people everywhere, who realized that our companion animals really are our best friends, regardless of whether we are on the top or hitting the bottom.

After seeing him with one of the best dressed babes to walk the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival in years last September, (his 16 year-old Chihuahua- terrier mix, Loki) you would think no one would be surprised by his speech -- but his heartfelt expression of love and gratitude to his dogs took the world by storm.

Tension Tamers

"She's like a giant Xanax, you know? I'm not going to get religious on your ass, but I truly believe God created dogs for a cause. They are the greatest companions a man could ever have," Says Mickey.

And he has got that right, too.

Hundreds of studies have proven beyond a doubt that owning a loving, non-judgmental companion animal is good for you, mentally, physically, and emotionally. The simple stroking of a dog or cat has been proven to lower heart rate, decrease stress and anxiety, and lower respiratory rate and blood pressure. Even watching fish in an aquarium creates similar effects. It is both soothing and meditative.

As a physician, whose main area of research is preventing and reversing many of the degenerative conditions associated with "normal" aging, I know the dangers of stress. In fact, stress is responsible for accelerated aging in all of our organ systems.

As a dermatologist, I can unequivocally state that stress is also the precipitator of a great many skin problems; in fact, these problems often have their roots in the psyche. This can include everything from acne to eczema, rosacea to psoriasis and worse. Unfortunately normal day-to-day interactions with our partners and children can be stressful - no matter how much we love them.

I've said this in my books, but I can't say it often enough: one of my favorite, all-time ways to relieve stress is to spend time with my dog. Not only does Peanut make me laugh with his spunky personality and antics, his unstinting devotion and loyalty are always heart-warming and validating.

The Real Healing Power of Pets -- How it Works

The skin is characterized by abundant nerve endings whose role is to provide information to the brain. It is also composed of many different types of cells, such as fibroblasts, keratinocytes, as well as messengers such as hormones, neuropeptides, and neurotransmitters. When the skin is challenged by an environmental stressor such as the sun or by physical or mental stress, its responsibility is to provide information to all of the other organ systems in our bodies.

In other words, the skin can function very much like the brain or the endocrine system, in providing important data to the body. The skin is much more than just a protective barrier; it also has receptor sites for all the different types of messengers mentioned above. This means that the skin can not only transmit messages throughout the body, it can also receive messages by way of neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, hormones and nerve impulses.

By just stimulating the skin, you can actually change the chemistry in your brain. This is why the simple act of petting a dog or cat, does so much to lower stress. This is a proven a biochemical process and not all in your mind.

But it is all in your brain!

An Ounce of Prevention

In today's collapsing health care system, it is critical that we find cures for the many diseases that plague our modern society. From Alzheimer's to diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease, we are assaulted on many fronts.

However, the search for cures is not the only way to approach the problem of disease. Prevention, even in as tiny increments of an ounce, is worth the proverbial pound of cure.

A loving companion animal can keep you happy and healthy both mentally and physically. And is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding ways we have to ensure a long, healthy and happy life.

Rescue Me and Gimme Shelter

With our stress levels at an all time high, we should take a page out of Mickey's book. We can save two precious lives (both our and theirs) when we adopt a loving pet from the local shelter.

Thanks, Mickey for two great inspiring performances. And don't miss The Wrestler, coming soon to a theater near you.

As an active researcher, I welcome your comments, suggestions and personal experiences.

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