Stressed Out? Thinking of Your Significant Other May Help Ease Blood Pressure

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 14, 2019
Thinking of Your Significant Other May Lower Stress and Blood Pressure

Stress -- you can’t escape it. And it can wreak havoc on blood pressure. Exercise, meditation and hobbies are common, effective stress busters. So is having a social support system of friends and relatives. But if they’re not available, having your significant other present – even if it’s only in your mind – can help keep blood pressure controlled, according to a small study published in Psychophysiology

Researchers from University of Arizona recruited 102 participants involved in romantically committed relationships and divided them into three groups. Group one was placed in room with their significant other; group two was place in a room alone and told to think about their significant other; group three was place in a room alone and told to think about their day. Once the groups were set, participants were asked to submerge one foot into three inches of water ranging from 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold water submerges are often used in experiments to produce stress. Participants’ blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability (variation in time intervals between heart beats) were measured before, during and after the foot submerge. 

Researchers found participants who were with or thinking about their partner during the submerge had lower blood pressure responses than participants who were alone and instructed to think about their day. Heart rate and heart rate variability didn’t fluctuate among the groups.

“I’m not surprised by these results,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “We’ve known for years that having a significant other has heart health benefits. We just didn’t have enough studies available to understand why.” 

If you’re not involved in a romantic relationship – don’t fret. Studies suggest pets can have a similar effect on blood pressure. For instance, dog owners reap heart health benefits because dogs are calming and require walking. But any pet can help ease stress, which helps lower blood pressure. 

“Regardless of whether you have a significant other, pet or social support system, the most important step you can take in controlling your blood pressure is working with your doctor,” says Kaminetsky.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. They have time to really work with you and develop a wellness plan that can help you manage your blood pressure. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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