We gain weight but the Norwegian drop in blood pressure is still at full speed. Less smoke, altered diet, medication, and perhaps better exercise habits are probably the cause.
‘’It is actually a medical paradox that the average blood pressure in the population goes down while the average weight increases. It is clear that the factors that make the blood pressure go down are stronger and override the tendency one would see if weight gain were the only driver’’ said Professor Steinar Krokstad, head of the public health survey HUNT (The Health Study in Nord-Trøndelag).
The large population survey HUNT 4 has been going on for two years. The researchers have, among other things, looked at social inequality as a factor in blood pressure, cholesterol, and obesity levels.
The average blood pressure for men in their 40s was 133 in the 1980s, when HUNT 1 was completed. Today, under HUNT 4, the average blood pressure is 127. Similarly, blood pressure for women in their 40s has decreased from 127 to 120.
‘’This is a formidable effect considering that it is an average measurement. The effect is also greater the older people are.
In people over the age of 80, the average blood pressure has decreased by 20 units’’ said Steinar Krokstad.
The professor stated that there is still a connection between social class and blood pressure, but the development goes the right way.
‘’The higher the blood pressure, the lower the socioeconomic status you have, measured by education. But because the blood pressure is now falling and getting lower, it is a percentage of reduced difference, and it is a nice find’’ he said.
Living conditions, however, affect our behavior and are the reason why there are differences despite the fact that all social layers have gradually changed both smoking habits and diet. Stress can also affect blood pressure. A larger proportion of those with lower social status experience everyday stress.
‘’You can have lower income and problems with the economy. This group are also more vulnerable to job cuts, unemployment, and difficult working conditions.’’
Together with the Tromsø survey, HUNT covers the development of the Norwegian population. The Norwegian public health development corresponds to the one seen in most western countries.
The development of Norwegian public health is good, and we are living ever longer. Nevertheless, there are still social inequalities in Norway showed a compilation of figures made by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
They have gone through surveys from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Cancer Registry and the Norwegian Sports College in addition to the findings from the Tromsø survey and HUNT 4 which are to be presented at the seminar of Social inequality in health in Norway on Tuesday.
‘’It is positive that everyone gets better, although we would have liked to see that the differences also diminished for all the risk factors’’ said researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Inger Ariansen.
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