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Lower blood pressure linked to education

1st March 2011

Women who have spent more years of their lives in education are more likely to have lower blood-pressure readings, according to a new study in the United States.

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Both genders who had spent more time in education showed lower blood pressure in a 30-year study, but the effects were more marked in women.

The research team analysed data on around 4,000 men and women involved in a 30-year health study.

Women who had completed at least 17 years of education tended to have lower blood pressure, they found.

When they compared systolic blood pressure readings, researchers found that the more educated women had an average reading of 3.26mm of mercury lower over the 30 year period.

The equivalent for more educated men was 2.26mmHg lower.

However, the difference dropped to just 2.86mmHg for women and 1.25mmHg for men, once the results had been adjusted for blood pressure medication, smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.

If all the study subjects' blood pressures were made equal at the start of the study, the most educated women had 2.53mmHg lower readings after the 30-year period.

The equivalent gap in educated men closed to just 0.34 mmHg, by comparison.

Study leader Eric Loucks of Rhode Island's Brown University, said that women with less education were more likely to be depressed, more likely to be single parents and more likely to be living in poorer areas below the poverty line.

The research was based on the 1971 Framingham Offspring Study, which followed the children of participants in the earlier Framingham Heart Study,

Heart disease experts said the findings appeared to support existing evidence about the link between heart disease risk and socio-economic deprivation.

But according to Natasha Stewart of the British Heart Foundation, the difference in blood pressure readings between more educated and less educated women was small, while in men, the difference was insignificant.

She said the study only looked at a relatively small number of people from a white, suburban background, and had not investigated whether or not the findings would apply to all ethnic groups.


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