High blood pressure: Having a pet could ‘significantly’ lower your reading

Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure

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A scientific paper, published in the medical journal Circulation, noted how research has demonstrated again and again that pet ownership can help to lower blood pressure readings. Citing an Australian study, which involved 5,741 participants, pet owners had lower systolic blood pressure than those who didn’t own pets, even when their body mass index (BMI) was similar. Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure, which is a reading of 140/90mmHg, the NHS certified.

Moreover, in a study of 240 married couples with and without pets, both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly lower in participants with a cat or dog.

Systolic blood pressure

The systolic blood pressure is the first number in a blood pressure reading.

Systolic blood pressure measures the force exerted on artery walls when the heart beats.

Diastolic blood pressure, on the other hand, measures the force exerted on artery walls in between heartbeats, when the muscle relaxes.

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The American Heart Association Scientific Statement added that owning a dog appears to have the most positive influence.

Cross-sectional studies show that dog owners engage in more physical activity and walking.

A Canadian study, involving 351 participants, found that dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes per week compared with 168 minutes per week for non-owners.

The NHS states that everybody should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as a brisk walk, every week.

In the research paper, pet ownership was also linked to a healthier stress response.

One study involving 240 couples found that pet owners had significantly smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure when faced with a stressor.

Moreover, the pet owners were more likely to have a faster recovery when their pet was present.

Limitations to the research include contributing factors, such as unidentified underlying health conditions.

How to lower blood pressure

Leading charity Blood Pressure UK cautioned that diet plays the biggest role in high numbers seen on a blood pressure monitor.

“Eating too much salt is the single biggest cause of high blood pressure,” the charity warned.

Thus, in order to prevent persistently elevated readings, it is wise to get into the habit of removing salt from the dinner table.

Try not to include salt in cooking either; instead, add herbs and spices for flavour.

Lots of salt can be hidden in packaged foods, so you could be eating more than you realise.

How does salt raise blood pressure?

Salt causes the body to hold onto water, meaning there’s extra water in the blood.

As such, extra pressure is exerted onto blood vessel walls, thereby raising blood pressure.

If you would like help bringing down your blood pressure, do discuss your health with your doctor.

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