Background: It has been proposed that pet ownership improves cardiovascular health. This study examines the relation of pet ownership with systolic and diastolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, mean arterial pressure, and hypertension in a large sample of older men and women.
Methods: Participants were 1179 community-dwelling men (n = 498) and women (n = 681) age 50-95 years. Participants responded to a 1991-1992 mailed questionnaire ascertaining pet ownership, and they attended a 1992-1996 clinic visit at which systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressures were measured and use of antihypertensive medication was validated. Pulse pressure was calculated as SBP minus DBP. Mean arterial pressure was calculated as (SBP+DBP)/2. Body mass index, waist-hip ratio, and information on other potential confounders were obtained.
Results: Average age of participants was 70.4 +/- 10.8 years; 30.0% reported current pet ownership. Mean SBP was 137.5 +/- 21.4 mm Hg, and DBP was 76.1 +/- 9.3 mm Hg; 55.6% were hypertensive (SBP >or= 140, DBP >or= 90 or taking hypertension medication). Pet owners were younger and slightly more overweight and they exercised less than nonowners; owners were somewhat more likely to have diabetes and to use beta-blockers. In unadjusted analyses, pet owners had lower SBP, pulse pressure, and mean arterial pressure, and a reduced risk of hypertension (odds ratio = 0.62; 95% confidence interval = 0.49-0.80). However, after adjustment for age and other confounders, pet ownership was not associated with systolic or diastolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, mean arterial pressure or risk of hypertension.
Conclusions: Results suggest that pet ownership is not independently associated with blood pressure, vascular reactivity, or hypertension.