Education may help the fight against high blood pressure

ORLANDO, Fla., Sept.15 -- Higher educational levels of parents may be associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure among teens later in life, suggests a small study presented at the American Heart Association's meeting on high blood pressure.

"Our study is the first to show that having parents with some college education can help teens compensate for the negative effects of living in a low socioeconomic neighborhood," says Dawn K. Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

"Having higher educated parents may result in health benefits for their children. The study reinforces the message that education is important," says Wilson.

Researchers do not have an explanation for the findings, however, co-author Wendy L. Kliewer, Ph.D., published a study last year that found that children of more educated mothers were more likely to feel that their mothers were available to discuss stressful life events, Wilson says. This study presented today is the first to link parental education to adolescents' blood pressure in reaction to stress.

"The teenage years are the perfect age to target because we can help them learn health behaviors that will reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in adulthood,"says Wilson.

The researchers used census data to calculate neighborhood socioeconomic status (NEIGH SES) using variables such as percentage of households below the poverty line, female-headed households, owner-occupied households and vacant housing. They then divided 77 healthy teenagers, ages 13 to 16, into two groups: low NEIGH SES and high NEIGH SES. They divided each of those groups into two levels based on the amount of parental education.

The teenagers were given a test that measures blood pressure changes in response to stress. To measure blood pressure response researchers asked each teen to play a competitive video game three times. They were

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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