Blood Pressure Can Naturally be Lowered by Owning a Pet

By Christian Goodman

Owning a pet can lower blood pressure naturally - and there are no side effects! Furry, four-legged friends improve physiological health and encourage exercise. The act of petting an animal can have immediate and profound effects on blood pressure.

"Research in this field is providing new evidence on the positive impact pets have in our lives, said Rebecca Johnson at the Society for Anthrozoology and Human-Animal Interaction Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, last week. "This conference will provide a unique opportunity to connect international experts working in human animal-interaction research with those already working in the health and veterinary medicine fields. A wonderful array of presentations will show how beneficial animals can be in the lives of children, families and older adults."

Owning a pet does more than basically encouraging exercise. Owning a pet inspires an affectionate connection, and that is truly heart healthy. A pet can act as a guardian angel for the heart, especially for those people who may not have much interaction with others.

"Pets are of great significance to people, especially during difficult economic times," said Johnson. "Pets provide unquestioned love and acceptance and may be part of the answers to societal problems such as inactivity and obesity."

Investigation suggests that pets may also energize the function of the immune system, reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, and elevate mood. Dogs are natural anti-depressants! (Yes, and cats, too.)

Research from the State University of New York at Buffalo found that pet ownership controls stress-related high blood pressure more effectively that medications for hypertension! The researchers examined 48 stockbrokers who were being treated with medication for high blood pressure. All of the study participants lived alone and had highly stressful jobs. Some participants were given pets while others were not. Researcher Karen Allen said, "When we told the group that didn't have pets about the results, many went out and got them. This study shows that if you have high blood pressure, a pet is very good for you when you're under stress, and pet ownership is especially good for you if you have a limited support system. There are many theories, but we honestly don't know why pets lower blood pressure. We suspect having someone on your side - someone you can always count on that is non-judgmental - psychologically creates a beneficial atmosphere."

In 2008, the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI), directed by Johnson, sponsored a program called "Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound and Stay Fit for Seniors." The program paired older adults with dogs from local shelters. A second group of seniors was paired with human walking partners. For 12 weeks, participants in the study were encouraged to walk on an outdoor trailer for one hour five times a week. Researchers measured improvements in activity levels of the participants at the end of the study.

"The older people who exercised their dogs increased their walking capabilities by 28 percent," Johnson stated. "They had more trust walking on the trail, and they increased their speed. The older people who walked with humans only had a 4 percent increase in their walking capabilities. The human walking buddies tended to discourage each other and used excuses such as the weather being too hot."

Pets, on the other hand, rarely complain about the weather being too hot. In general, pets are always up for a nice walk in the park.

Regular physical activity - something as simple as a daily walk in the park - will do wonders for hypertension. If you don't own a pet, try these easy exercises for high blood pressure.

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