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Higher Education Shown To Lower Blood Pressure Among Blacks

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You've heard the benefits of a college degree before, but new research suggests that there's a healthful one, too.

According to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, education trumps genetics as a predictor of high blood pressure in African Americans. The study, published in the August 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, examined data from nearly 3,700 white and African-American adults participating in the Family Blood Pressure Program Study and found that among African-American participants, each year of education was associated with a 0.51 mmHg drop in blood pressure.

Four years of additional education would result in a decrease of 2 mmHg systolic (the top number) blood pressure, lead author, Amy Non, predicted, a decrease that could contribute to a reduction in hypertension-related deaths.

A similar study by researchers at Brown University looked at nearly 4,000 participants over the course of 30 years and found the effects of education on blood pressure may be higher in women. After adjusting for age, they found that female participants with fewer than 12 years of education had 2.69 mmHg higher blood pressure than those who'd been in school for at least 17 years.

Nom says that education can lead to higher levels of health knowledge and improved health behaviors, better job opportunities and a more positive attitude.

"While genetics undoubtedly plays a role in hypertension, our findings suggest that education level plays an even larger role in health disparities in hypertension," she told MSNBC. "This means that improved access to education among African Americans may reduce racial disparities in blood pressure."

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