help stabilize owner's blood pressure
A pet's calming influence may outperform drug therapy when it
comes to reducing stress-related spikes in blood pressure, researchers
shown over and over that it's beneficial to be with a pet when
you're under stress," explained Dr. Karen M. Allen of the State
University of New York at Buffalo. She reported the findings here
Sunday at a meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).
Numerous studies have found that pets improve the emotional and
physical well being of their owners, especially the elderly. The
Buffalo researchers' new findings suggest that Fluffy or Fido
may even soothe the savage breasts of stress-prone Wall Street
In their study, the investigators asked 48 stockbrokers to conduct
in-home 'stress tests' aimed at producing temporary spikes in
blood pressure. Prior to the study, the brokers lived alone and
were diagnosed by their physicians as suffering from hypertension.
In initial stress tests, subjects were asked to either rapidly
count backwards by 17 or try arguing their way out of a shoplifting
charge. During these exercises, blood pressure levels reached
an average peak of up to 184/126 mm Hg.
The stockbrokers were then prescribed the antihypertensive drug
lisinopril. Half of the study participants also got a dog or a
cat as a housepet.
The researchers repeated a second round of stress tests in the
subjects' homes 6 months later. They report that in the brokers
without pets, stress-induced blood pressure rose an average of
20 mm Hg, reaching highs of 141/94 mm Hg. Readings like these
are "still high enough to be diagnosed as high blood pressure
if sustained over a period of time," Allen pointed out.
The brokers who owned pets also had stress-related rises in blood
pressure, but these rises were only half as high as those seen
in the petless group. And with pets present, the broker owners
had average systolic pressures (the first number in a reading,
indicating pressure as the heart beats) of just 130 mm Hg -- well
within the normal healthy range. Stress-related peaks in diastolic
pressure (the second number in a reading, indicating the pressure
between beats) were reduced by similar levels.
Pets may even outperform human companions when it comes to controlling
hypertension. People with pets don't feel they're being evaluated.
They're loved and accepted (by their pets)."