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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAlbany: Pet Ownership Decreases the Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure on Hypertension in Children

Environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke can affect the risk of hypertension—also known as high blood pressure— among children.

Research has shown that owning pets may reduce the risk of hypertension and is associated with better overall cardiovascular health. To expand on this knowledge, an international team of researchers led by Dr. Guanghui Dong from Sun Yat-sen University recently examined whether exposure to pets influences the association between hypertension and environmental tobacco smoke.

From 2012 to 2013, 9,354 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were recruited from 62 schools in seven northeastern cities in China. Blood pressure and other basic measurements were collected, along with a questionnaire completed by the parents that addressed the children’s exposure to pets and tobacco smoke.

An analysis of the data shows that pets may provide protective benefits from the effects of environmental tobacco smoke exposure on hypertension children. Children who were not exposed to pets experienced stronger effects from environmental tobacco smoke on hypertension than those who were exposed to pets. In addition, the protective effect of pet ownership became stronger with a greater number of pets in the home.

“While our results suggest that pet ownership potentially mitigates the risk of environmental tobacco smoke exposure, it is important that health policies and campaigns are enacted to further reduce hypertension risks,” says Dr. Shao Lin, University at Albany School of Public Health professor and co-author of the paper. “Legislation on tobacco smoke paired with health promotion efforts are needed, particularly to help protect against home exposure for children.”

Full results of the study can be found in Science of the Total Environment.

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