By Marielle Segarra, WBUR intern
There are many ways to decrease your blood pressure. You can diet, exercise, quit smoking and reduce your stress. But Brown University researchers have found another path to lower blood pressure, particularly for women: getting an undergraduate or master’s degree.
In a study published Sunday in the open access journal BMC Public Health, researchers found that women who had 12 years or less of schooling (up to high school), measured 3 millimeters of mercury higher on blood pressure tests than women who attended school for at least 17 years. Men had a 2 mm difference.
Eric Loucks, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of medical science at Brown, says that on an individual level, the difference in blood pressure is not earth shattering. But if the overall education system shifted to reflect these findings, public health as a whole could improve significantly, he said.
In the paper, Loucks examined 4,000 patient records from the 30-year Framingham Offspring Study. The study participants were the children of members of the Framingham Heart Study, which found that smoking cigarettes causes heart disease, and elevated blood pressure can cause stroke.
Other studies have linked heart disease with lower education levels, but Loucks wondered if the connection was even stronger, and if the biological underpinnings of heart disease (blood pressure, in this case) were also affected by educational level.
Upon closer examination, the female participants had much more dramatic results. Continue reading