Health

Education reduces blood pressure

  • 28 February 2011
  • From the section Health
Graduation Day
Higher levels of education have been linked to lower blood pressure

Despite exam stress, a long stint in education is good for people's blood pressure, according to researchers in the US.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is linked to heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, shows the link is stronger in women than in men.

The British Heart Foundation said the findings supported the link between deprivation and heart disease risk.

Higher levels of education have been linked to lower levels of heart disease. The researchers suggest that blood pressure could be the reason why.

The study looked at 30 years of data from 3,890 people who were being followed as part of the Framingham Offspring Study.

People were divided into three groups, low education (12 years or less), middle education (13 to 16 years) and high education (17 years or more).

The average systolic blood pressure for the 30 year period was then calculated.

Predisposition

Women with low education had a blood pressure 3.26 mmHg higher than those with a high level of education. In men the difference was 2.26 mmHg.

Other factors, such as smoking, taking blood pressure medication and drinking, were taken into consideration and the effect on blood pressure remained, although at a much lower level.

Writing in the journal, the researchers says: "Low educational attainment has been demonstrated to predispose individuals to high strain jobs, characterised by high levels of demand and low levels of control, which have been associated with elevated blood pressure."

Professor Eric Loucks, who conducted the study at Brown University, said: "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."

Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "These findings support existing evidence about the link between socio-economic deprivation and heart disease risk.

"However, the study only showed up a small blood pressure drop among women and an insignificant decrease among men.

"Action is needed across all parts of society to give children the best possible start in life and reduce health inequalities."

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites