The Pet Effect: How Pets Can Help Your Blood Pressure

The Benefits of Pets for Your Blood Pressure

Our pets may be more than just faithful companions. They may also be beneficial to our health. What many researchers call the pet effect is becoming part of an overall health strategy focused on how to lower high blood pressure for many Americans. In fact, dog owners may already be reaping the health benefits without realizing it. 

It all started with a study presented at the 22nd Annual Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine involving patients with borderline hypertension. Some adopted pets from local shelters while others did not. Within a two and five month follow up by researchers, those who brought home a pet experienced significantly lower systolic blood pressure over those who passed on adoption. 

To confirm their results, researchers urged those who had not adopted to take home a dog. Within another two to five-month period, their blood pressure numbers improved as well. But why exactly are pooches blood pressure miracles?

The Pet Effect

We know when we pet a dog that we simply feel better. More than just improving our mood, this is also impacting the factors of what causes high blood pressure, such as stress.

The pet effect is a proven phenomenon that shows an immediate reduction in blood pressure just by that interaction alone.  There is also evidence that dog ownership leads to long-term improvements in other areas of heart health including cholesterol and triglycerides.

So, if you want to know how to lower blood pressure beyond your meds, a dog may do you good.  

The Big Picture for Pets and Heart Health

However, what causes high blood pressure may involve more than just one factor. Pets can help here too. They contribute in other ways to overall well-being that can help achieve a healthier heart and lower blood pressure.

Pets encourage active lifestyles

Whether it’s going for a walk or playing fetch, dogs won’t let you just sit on the couch. If doctor-recommended exercise for your high blood pressure seems like a burden, a dog can turn the doctor’s orders for physical activity into a joy. Playing frisbee in the park with your dog beats a treadmill any day. 

Pets improve reactions to stress

Whether you are a dog person or a cat person, having a pet at home helps keep stress levels stabilized. Some studies have shown that pet ownership also reduces cardiovascular reactivity during stressful periods. That means heart rate and blood pressure don’t spike as dramatically and return to normal more quickly. Pets diffuse a stressful day. 

Pets stabilize mood

Research reveals that people suffering from severe depression and anxiety are more likely to experience hypertension. Having a cat or dog around not only reduces stress, but also helps reduce the health impact of these emotional conditions. 

Pets make you more social

Social isolation can be a contributing factor to high blood pressure.  Research has shown that individuals with more social interaction have reduced risk from high blood pressure associated with diabetes. A dog gets you engaged in social interactions at the dog park or meeting up with other pet owners at the pet store. Essentially, a pet helps you interact with people, which is good for you.  

Making Pets Part of Your Blood Pressure Management Plan

Having a pet at home is just one of many ways to successfully manage blood pressure. Speak with your doctor about including a dog or cat as part of your BP management plan. Regular blood pressure monitoring during pet ownership may reveal significant benefits that traditional medicine is just beginning to understand.