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New study shows dogs lower blood pressure

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A press release dated December 2, 2013, cites a new research study that shows spending time with your dog may help lower blood pressure. The study, conducted by the University of Maryland, was supported by funding from the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition (WALTHAM®).

"Lowering blood pressure is the most important therapeutic goal in treating hypertension," said lead study author, Erika Friedmann, a Professor at the University of Maryland. "This is the first study to examine blood pressure under normal living conditions with animals present. It allowed us to evaluate the real-time impact of companion animals in their owners' daily lives. This study enhances our understanding of the potential positive impact of pet dogs on the blood pressure of individuals with hypertension. The findings also reinforce the growing body of evidence supporting the therapeutic role animals can play in improving general and cardiovascular health."

The research study focused on pet owners over 50 years of age with pre-hypertension or mild hypertension, who lived independently. Study findings indicated that participants' blood pressure was lower when pet dogs were present. Though most participants were actively treating their hypertension, including the medication to lower blood pressure. A small device worn constantly automatically measured blood pressure every 20 minutes over three separate days across a three-month study period.

According to the press release, results showed that the presence of a dog was associated with significantly lower systolic blood pressure (pressure when the heart muscle contracts) and diastolic blood pressure (pressure when the heart muscle relaxes).

The study was partially funded by WALTHAM®, the science institute for Mars Petcare. Dr Sandra McCune, Scientific Leader - Human-Animal Interaction at WALTHAM®, explained the importance of this research: "We have long been aware of the beneficial effect dogs can have on their owners' blood pressure. This study confirms that the presence of dogs during normal day-to-day life can lower blood pressure in adults with mild hypertension. WALTHAM® is proud to continue to support research in this key area."

The research has been published in Anthrozoös and is available online at http://bit.ly/1c8ATRQ.

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