Cardiovascular disease/pets - Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology Review and Commentary

Cardiovascular disease/pets - Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology Review and CommentaryIn 5,740 participants attending a free screening clinic at a Melbourne institute, BP, plasma cholesterol and triglyceride values were compared in 786 pet owners and 4,960 non-owners. Pet owners had significantly lower systolic blood pressures and plasma triglycerides than non-owners. In men, pet owners had significantly lower systolic (but not diastolic) blood pressures than non-owners, and significantly lower plasma triglyceride and cholesterol levels. In women over 40 years old, SBP but not DEP was significantly lower in pet owners and plasma triglycerides also tended to be lower. There were no differences in body mass index and self-reported smoking habits were similar, but pet owners reported that they took significantly more exercise than non-owners. The socioeconomic profile of the pet owners and non-owners appeared to be comparable. Pet owners had lower levels of accepted risk factors for cardiovascular disease not explicable by cigarette smoking, diet, body mass index or socioeconomic profile.

Anderson WP et al. Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Med J Aust 1992 Sep 7; 157(5):298-301

COMMENT: A rash of studies in the 1990s highlighted benefits of the presence of pets in the environment. In this study, blood pressures and triglycerides were significantly lower in men and were marginally lower in women. True, pet owners may get more exercise. There may also be companionship factors, the unconditional love shown by dogs, responsibility factors on the part of owners, and other less obvious reasons for the benefits shown. Studies have shown less speechmaking anxiety in children when a dog is visible (see below). Langer has shown that responsibility for caring for plants in the nursing home setting engenders greater survival; it might follow that being responsible for a pet has a similar effect. Animal companionship is difficult to measure, but companionship has certainly been shown to be important at the human to human level.

Robert Anderson is a retired family physician. In mid-career, his practice took on a more holistic nature as decades passed. He has authored five major books, Stress Power! (1978), Wellness Medicine (1987), The Complete Self-Care Guide to Holistic Medicine (1999) (co-author), The Scientific Basis for Holistic Medicine, (5th edition) available from American Health Press,, and Clinician's Guide to Holistic Medicine (McGraw Hill, 2001). Anderson served as the founding president of the American Board of Holistic Medicine, is a past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, former Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, and currently Adjunct Instructor in Family Medicine at Bastyr University.