Having Children Lowers Your Blood Pressure?
No, seriously. That vein throbbing on the side of your neck notwithstanding, researchers from Brigham Young University and California State University at Long Beach have good news.
They took ambulatory blood pressure readings of 198 married men and women ages 20 to 68 over a 24-hour period. About 70 percent of the couples had children of various ages.
Guess what. The Annals of Behavioral Medicine reports the parents scored an average of 4.5 points lower than their childless counterparts in systolic blood pressure (when the heart is contracting) and 3 points lower in diastolic blood pressure (when the heart is in between beats).
"Women were driving the effect," lead researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, tells USA Today. "Women with children had the lowest blood pressure, and women without had the highest."
Mothers showed a 12-point difference in systolic pressure and 7-point difference in diastolic pressure compared with women without children.
Readings were taken while subjects wore blood pressure monitors that took readings at random intervals during the day, including while they were sleeping.
The Los Angeles Times reports that researchers took into account variables such as age, body mass, exercise, employment and smoking.
So what gives parents lower blood pressure?
The Times reports that this and other studies have shown parents benefit medically from the self-esteem that comes from caring for others.
"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," Holt-Lunstad tells the Times.
On the other hand, the paper reports, studies have also shown that being a parent also makes people more stressed out and vulnerable to cardiovascular disease.
Related: Coffee and Your Blood Pressure
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