Education linked to better health, lower blood pressure

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Education and blood pressure
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Research suggests higher education is linked to a longer and healthier life and lower blood pressure. Findings published in the journal Biomed Central show educated men and women are less likely to engage in risky health behaviors compared to men and women with lower academic levels and sustain lower blood pressure that persists for decades, even after adjusting for other health risks.

Educated men and women have lower blood pressure

The findings that come from an analysis of 3890 people followed for 30 years from The Framingham Offspring Study revealed higher education equated to lower blood pressure, reducing the chances of heart disease and stroke.

Men with more than 17 years education were found to smoke less and drink less and have lower body mass index and did women in the study, compared to study participants with less education. The study also found women who achieved higher academic levels drank half as much as men with higher educational levels.

Dr Eric Loucks from Brown University's Department of Community Health said, "Even when adjusted for socio-economic variables education is inversely correlated with high blood pressure and this positive effect of education on health is even stronger for women than men."

Blood pressure lower for years for those with more education

The researchers also found that having an advanced educational degree correlates with decades of lower blood pressure.

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Compared to women who did not finish high school, those with 17 years of schooling or more had blood pressure readings that were an average, 3.26 mmHg lower. Women who attended college only had the benefit of blood pressure that was 2mmHg lower than less educated women.

For men, having a graduate degree was associated with a 2.26 mmHg difference in blood pressure versus men not finishing high school.

Even after taking into account smoking, drinking, obesity and blood pressure medication the association between lower blood pressure was evident, though the research found graduate education resulted in a 2.86 mmHg lower blood pressure reading for women and 1.25 mmHg difference for men.

Loucks found that higher education seems to have a greater impact on women's health that surpass men. In a statistical move, he indexed blood pressure readings to make them all equal at the beginning of the study period from 1971 to 2001, finding a 2.53 mmHg benefit that was steady among women, compared to the least educated. In men, the difference only 0.34 mmHg.

He explains, "Women with less education are more likely to be experiencing depression, they are more likely to be single parents, more likely to be living in impoverished areas and more likely to be living below the poverty line."

The findings from the studies suggest policy makers should focus on access to education as a matter of public health policy. Higher education was linked to better health for men and women and lower blood pressure that persisted for years, found in the Framingham Offspring Study, compared to individuals studied with lower academic levels of achievement.

BMC Public Health 2011, 11:139:doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-139

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