Beat Blood Pressure with Fido

Having a pet may help lower blood pressure

Sketch of three dogs

Sketch of three dogs

How's this for a fun way to lower your blood pressure? Get a pet. In one study published in 2001, 48 people with hypertension were given either lisinopril (Zestril), a popular prescription medicine for hypertension, or a dog. After six months, their responses to mental stress were measured. The group that had the pets had significantly lower blood pressure changes in reaction to stress than those who received only the drug. Don't try this with a goldfish, however; the researchers speculate that the increased social support that pet ownership provides was responsible for the reaction, which is something you probably won't get with a fish.

The same social support theory also comes into play with studies linking active religious faith with healthy blood pressure levels—but you have to go to church or synagogue. Just listening to religious services on the radio or watching them on television has no apparent effect.