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Study: Pets curb dangerous rises in blood pressure

pet owner
Studies show that owning a pet can dramatically reduce stress levels  

November 8, 1999
Web posted at: 12:05 a.m. EST (0505 GMT)

From staff and wire reports

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Purring cats and playful pups can provide more than companionship. They can significantly reduce stress-related increases in blood pressure, even among people with highly demanding jobs, scientists said Sunday at an American Heart Association meeting.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo, studying 48 stockbrokers already taking a medication called Lycinprol for hypertension, found that those who obtained a pet reduced by half the increase in blood pressure that came with stress.

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Psychologist Karen Allen, a principal researcher along with Dr. Joe Izzo, said the medication and pets complement each other well medically.

"Lycinprol treats high blood pressure. It brings it down at rest, where pets are treating, or you could call it taming, our responses to stress, and they work together," Allen said.

Half the stockbrokers were given a pet. Six months later the researchers put the entire group in simulated stressful situations. Study subjects were asked to tackle challenges like talking their way out of a shoplifting charge or calming a client who had lost $86,000 because of the stockbroker's bad advice.

stock brokers

"Those who had pets went from 120 to 126 for systolic blood pressure. Those who had no pets went from 120 to about 148," said Allen.

Pets best, spouses worse to help with tests

When it comes to stressful verbal or math tests, Allen said a pet calms people much more than having the other half around.

"The spouse is the worst person to be there. The pet is the best," she said.

The researchers said the benefits were equally good for men and women stockbrokers, regardless of whether they have a dog or a cat.


One Atlanta stockbroker has done plenty of informal research on the subject.

"You lean over and pet an animal like this," said Ed Mosley, demonstrating with one of his two best canine friends, Bob and Casey. "It's so happy. You look after him, and he looks after you. It's just kind of a wonderful, calming sensation."

Correspondent Holly Firfer and Reuters contributed to this report.

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