Many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure or kidney failure. The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. According to recent estimates, one in four U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but because there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of these people don't even know they have it. This is why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer." Get the facts on high blood pressure and how to live a more heart-healthy life. Find out how you can reduce your risks for heart attack and stroke with proper monitoring by a physician and simple lifestyle changes, even if you have high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure you should think about having a pet, such as a dog, or a cat. Some psychologists feel that having a pet can help lower blood pressure. In a study at the State University of New York at Buffalo, it was found that stockbrokers that have the disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), could adopt a cat or a dog to lower their blood pressure. Doctors found that stress-induced blood pressure continued to rise in brokers with NO pet, even when they were treated with medication to lower their blood pressure. The brokers with pets also had a rise in blood pressure, but not as much as the brokers without pets. Based on this study, researchers conclude that drugs do help lower blood pressure but having a pet is better at helping to control stress-related increases in blood pressure. Some of the people in the study went out and got a pet after they learned of the benefits. No one is really sure why this is true. The feeling is that having someone on your side that you can count on and does not judge you is a great benefit to those in high stress jobs.
- Pets control blood pressure better than drugs: While ACE inhibiting drugs can generally reduce blood pressure, they aren’t as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. However, in a recent study, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!
- Pets can improve your mood: For those who love animals, it’s virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy eyes meets yours, or when a super-soft cat rubs up against your hand. Research supports the mood-enhancing benefits of pets. A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet.
- Pets encourage you to get out and exercise: Whether we walk our dogs because they need it, or are more likely to enjoy a walk when we have companionship, dog owners do spend more time walking than non-pet owners, at least if we live in an urban setting. Because exercise is good for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.
- Pets can help with social support: When we’re out walking, having a dog with us can make us more approachable and give people a reason to stop and talk, thereby increasing the number of people we meet, giving us an opportunity to increase our network of friends and acquaintances, which also has great stress management benefits.
- Pets can reduce stress—sometimes more than people: While we all know the power of talking about your problems with a good friend who’s also a good listener, recent research shows that spending time with a pet may be even better! Recent research shows that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! (This may be partially due to the fact that pets don’t judge us; they just love us.)
- Pets stave off loneliness and provide unconditional love: Pets can be there for you in ways that people can’t. They can offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness. In fact,research shows that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they spent time with other people! All these benefits can reduce the amount of stress people experience in response to feelings of social isolation and lack of social support from people.