Parenting Can Lower Blood Pressure

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Although moms around the world may question the results, a study from Brigham Young University found that parenthood can lower blood pressure and be good for the heart. The research is published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

A team of researchers monitored the blood pressure of 200 adults, 70% parents, at various intervals throughout a 24-hour period via portable monitors. Taking into account other factors that affect blood pressure, such as age, weight, and smoking, parents, on average, had systolic blood pressure that was 4.5 points lower than those without children. Diastolic blood pressure was three points lower.

The effect was greater in mothers than fathers – women had an average of 12 points lower systolic pressure and 7 points lower diastolic. The effect was the same regardless of the number of children. The age of the children was also not a factor. Researchers compared parents with children under the age of 2 to those with teenagers and found no difference.

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The researchers believe that the fulfillment of children and giving life made parents more content, which has a positive effect on blood pressure. Social interaction and having a life purpose are also factors that affect heart health.

Study leader and psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad said: "While caring for children may include daily hassles, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from life's stress has been shown to be associated with better health outcomes. The findings are simply tied to parenthood, no matter the number of children or employment status."

Stress is often cited as a risk factor for high blood pressure. But according to the American Heart Association, stress is not a confirmed risk factor for either heart disease or high blood pressure. Stressful situations can temporarily spike blood pressure due to a release of hormones (as in the fight of flight response), but when the stressor goes away, the body returns to a normal state.

However, some people cope with stress by eating a high fat or high salt diet, smoking, drinking alcohol, and skipping daily exercise in favor of more sedentary activities. These activities over time can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

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