Can Having A Pet Can Help Lower Hypertension?

Eli Ben-Yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda

On November 20, 2019

In my research this week I wanted to delve into the relationship of our pets and blood pressure and generally with health. Do pets really, from a scientific perspective, impact our health?

I have had dogs in my life since I was about 6 years old. One day my dad showed up with a black Labrador retriever puppy called Smokey. We were the best of friends. We would chase each other in the woods out back. He would run after the ball when I kicked it.

He also would go fishing with me down by the creek. He was my guardian, protector, and my best friend.

Seems no matter how tired I have been, or grumpy, my current dogs are always there for me. She is amazing. They jump like a gazelles in the tall grass, and they listen to me, really listens when I need to talk. If you are a dog lover I know you understand what I am talking about.

A little bit about blood pressure

More than 2,150 Americans die from cardiovascular disease daily, an average of 1 death every 40 seconds.

In any given year, approximately 620,000 Americans suffer their first heart attack, and 295,000 have a repeat attack.

Even though rates of CVD declined between 2000 and 2010, its impact on healthcare costs and the lives of affected individuals, their families, and the community is substantial.

What pets have to do with it?

In an attempt to further reduce rates of CVD and improve heart attack survival rates, researchers extensively studied the effects of various medical and social variables on cardiovascular health.

This includes human-animal contact. Human-animal interaction (HAI) can include temporary contact, regular contact, cohabitation, or ownership.

Distinguishing between the different types of contact is crucial, as some studies involve interaction with a friendly but unfamiliar animals.

It is estimated that Americans have about 75 million dogs and 80 million cats as companion animals. This does not include reptiles, birds, fish and the rest of Noah’s friends.

In a survey performed in 2013, 64% of American household have at least 1 pet while 45% have more than one. So how can having so many pets help us?

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pets and blood pressure research

In a ground-breaking study, 92 people were followed. These people had been treated for a heart attack or angina and discharged home.

Survival after one year was 94% (50/53) for pet owners and 72% (28/39) for those with no pets.

Pet ownership correlated with survival and reduced severity of disease. This finding was replicated in a later study of 424 survivors of MI (Friedmann and Thomas, 1995).

According to research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, human-dog interactions showed that talking to and petting a dog are accompanied by lower blood pressure (BP) in the person than human conversation.

To clarify whether cognition, conditioning, or tactual contact exerted the major influence in this so-called “pet effect,” 60 male and female undergraduates with either positive or neutral attitudes toward dogs were tested.

They interacted with a dog tactile, verbally, and visually while BP and heart rate were recorded automatically.

Results revealed that a subjects’ BP levels were lowest during dog petting, higher while talking to the dog, and highest while talking to the experimenter.

And the subjects’ heart rates were lower while talking or touching the dog and higher while both touching and talking to the dog. Touch appeared to be major component of the pet effect, while cognitive factors contributed to a lesser degree.

Recent Studies on pets and blood pressure

In a study published in 2017 and done in Sweden, with a 12 year follow-up, the researchers concluded that:

“…in a nationwide population based study with 12 years of follow-up, we show that dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in single households and with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death in the general population.”

Final Thoughts

It has been reported that people who have a pet, have healthier hearts, less often are homesick, and make fewer visits to the doctor. They get more exercise and are less depressed.

Pets have been recently used in ‘Pet therapy ’, where the pets, especially cats and dogs, are commonly used not only to lessen stress and anxiety, but also to increase self-esteem and improve social skills .

Perhaps most importantly, dogs as pets are known to have the power of boosting mood and physical health.

Petting, hugging, or otherwise touching pets, can rapidly calm and soothe us when we are stressed, depressed or anxious. Touch and movement are considered as two healthy ways to quickly reduce stress.

This interacting with your pet lowers blood pressure, thus making one feel calmer quickly and less stressed.

Additional resources on natural ways to lower blood pressure

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