Pet owners less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases

ZEYNEP ESRA İSTANBULLU
ISTANBUL
Published 29.06.2015 21:36
Updated 29.06.2015 21:42
Pet owners less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases

Encouraging people at the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases to own a pet may be a new protective medical strategy, according to research conducted over the past 30 years

Individuals who have a pet in their homes are less likely to suffer from stress. Additionally, the blood pressure of those individuals is lower compared to non-pet owners and they recover better from cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Osman Akdemir, a professor of cardiovascular diseases at İçerenköy Bayındır Hospital, said that having a pet reduces the rates of cardiovascular diseases for those who are at risk, while it has positive effects on those who have already been diagnosed. He also stressed that encouraging people who are at risk of having cardiovascular diseases to keep a pet should be considered a part of preventative medicine.

"Testing the effects of having pets on individuals dates back to the 1980s. First, a study by Friedmann et al. emphasized in 1983 that blood pressure and heart rates in children were lower when they rested silently and read aloud with a friendly dog accompanying the researcher. Grossberg and Alf Universities stated in 1985 that college students' blood pressure were lower while petting a dog, compared to having a conversation or reading a book. Vormbrock and Grossberg found in 1988 that students' blood pressure were found to be lower especially while touching a dog," Akdemir said.

Akdemir also mentioned a few more studies conducted in this field. "The studies done in the 1990s showed that children aged between 2 and 6 get less stressed during the medical examination if there is a dog in the environment," he said. "Another study conducted on adults in 1999 showed that maintaining eye contact with an animal reduces the expected stress reaction. Hanever et al. found in 2001 that keeping a dog in a waiting room of a dentist's office reduces the stress experienced by children between the ages of 7 and 10 before their dental therapy begins. Motooka et al. emphasized in a study published in 2006 that healthy elderly individuals experience positive changes to their heartbeats while walking 30 minutes with a dog when compared to walking alone. Another study conducted in 2007 indicated that there was a decrease in the pulmonary artery pressure of the patients who were being treated at a hospital for coronary heart failure if a dog remains in their rooms for 12 minutes. A study stressed that the heart rates of women who have a pet remain low for 55 minutes after they touch their dogs for three minutes. As the last example, research by Allen et al. showed that, among individuals solving an arithmetic task at home or putting their hands into ice water for two minutes, their pulse, blood pressure and skin conductance were lower in the presence of a pet than when alone or with a friend. Their stress reactions were better in the presence of dogs even compared to the presence of their spouses. It was understood that hypertensive patients profit from acquiring and having a pet with regard to stress-related parameters, such as heart rate blood pressure and plasma renin activity, an indicator of hypertension. After all participants began taking medication for hypertension and half of the group was motivated to acquire a pet, the pet owning participants showed lower blood pressure than people who only took medication for six months."

In addition to emphasizing that hundreds of positive effects were confirmed in children and adults, Akdemir said that dog owners have a more active life while their blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels are lower. They are affected less by the experiment's stresses and they experience a better recovery from cardiovascular diseases. The positive impacts of pets on individuals are not only limited to dogs. One study, which lasted for nearly 20 years, comprised of 15,000 individuals and published in 2009, showed that cat owners are less likely to die of a heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases than people who have never had a pet cat.

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