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Higher education, lower blood pressure

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The more advanced degrees a person has,  the lower their blood pressure, a study published online Sunday found.

An analysis of some 4,000 patient records from the 30-year Framingham  Offspring Study found that, controlling only for age, women with 17 years or  more of education — a master’s degree or doctorate — had systolic blood  pressure readings 3.26 millimeters of mercury lower than female high school  drop-outs.

Men who went to graduate school had systolic blood pressure readings that  were 2.26 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) lower than their counterparts who did  not finish high school, the study, published online in the open access journal  BMC Public Health, says.    The same inverse relationship between education and blood pressure was also  seen, although to a lesser degree, in men and women who got associate’s or  bachelor’s degrees at university but did not continue on to graduate school.

They showed greater blood pressure benefits than high school drop-outs but  lesser benefits than holders of master’s degrees or doctorates, the study  found.    Even after controlling for influences such as smoking, drinking, obesity  and blood pressure medication, the benefits persisted, although at a lower  level.

The study could help explain the widely documented association in developed  countries between education and lower risk of heart disease, said lead author  Eric Loucks, an assistant professor of public health at Brown University in  Rhode Island.

Blood pressure is “one of the biological underpinnings of heart disease,”  said Loucks, urging policy-makers who want to improve public health to think  about improving access to education.

The study focused on systolic blood pressure over diastolic blood pressure  because “systolic hypertension is substantially more common than diastolic  hypertension, and systolic blood pressure contributes more to the global  disease burden attributable to hypertension than diastolic blood pressure.”

Washington, Feb 27, 2011 (AFP)