Education isn't just good for your brain, it may also be good for your heart. This according to a new study from researchers at Brown University looking at data from the so-called Framingham Offspring Study.
The longitudinal study looked at nearly 4,000 participants at seven different physical examinations over the course of 30 years. Using what the researchers describe as "mixed linear models," they recorded (and then calculated) average systolic blood pressure (SBP) among the participants. SBP is the top number in a blood pressure reading and is a measure of the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. (The bottom number is a measure of one's diastolic blood pressure, or the pressure in the arteries between heart beats.) According to the Mayo Clinic, isolated systolic hypertension can lead to stroke, heart disease, chronic kidney disease and even dementia.
Researchers grouped their study participants into three groups: those who'd had fewer than 12 years of education (meaning high school or less), those who'd had between 13 and 16 years of education, and those with 17 or more years of school under their belts, which researchers said approximated "more than an undergraduate college degree."
Crunching the numbers, researchers concluded that the effects of education on blood pressure may be higher in females. After adjusting for age, they found that female participants with fewer than 12 years of education had 2.69 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) higher blood pressure than those who'd been in school for at least 17 years.
"This suggests that low education may have a long-term impact on changes over time in blood pressure in females," the study's authors concluded.
Though the researchers took pains to separate out "antecedent effects of education" and other related factors in an effort to zero in specifically on the potential long-term effects of education on blood pressure, they steered clear of offering any sweeping assessments of how, exactly, education might have that impact.
In speaking with the BBC, Natasha Stewart, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation said that while the findings did indicate a real link, "...the study only showed a small blood pressure drop among women and an insignificant decrease among men."