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College degrees lessen heart disease risk for Whites but not Blacks

When it comes to heart health, , such as college and graduate degrees, appears to provide protection for Whites against – a marker of – while leaving Blacks with no health benefit, according to a new study by a (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar.

Based on data from 2,700 adults followed from the age of 30 to 45, the study is the first of its kind to show race differences in the link between educational attainment and inflammation over time. It is also the first to show, using data collected in the same individuals over time, that inflammation levels increase more rapidly among Blacks than Whites.

Led by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar Thomas Fuller-Rowell, the researchers controlled for many of the leading factors that influence inflammation, including weight, exercise, smoking, drinking, and early life adversity. They found that race differences in the effects of educational attainment on inflammation were still clearly present after accounting for all of these factors.

In other words, says Fuller-Rowell, “based on levels of inflammation, a White college graduate has 24% less risk of mortality from cardiovascular causes than a White high school graduate. While a Black college graduate has about the same risk of as a Black high school graduate.”

Fuller-Rowell believes the difference in the effects of educational attainment are due to stresses that Blacks face as they navigate largely white colleges and workplaces.

Study: Racial Disparities in the Health Benefits of Educational Attainment: A Study of Inflammatory Trajectories Among African American and White Adults, Fuller-Rowell, Thomas E. PhD; Curtis, David S. MS; Doan, Stacey N. PhD; Coe, Christopher L. PhD, Psychosomatic Medicine, doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000128, published December 2014.

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Source: IQ Solutions, Inc