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College Degrees Protect Smokers from Strokes, Study

Update Date: Aug 14, 2014 04:38 PM EDT

Low education levels put smokers at a higher risk of experiencing deadly strokes, according to new research.

The study linked the combination of smoking and high blood pressure to the greatest risk of suffering stroke. Researchers said the latest findings match results from previous studies.

"We found it is worse being a current smoker with lower education than a current smoker with a higher education," lead researcher Helene Nordahl, Ph.D., M.S.C., of the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said in a news release. "Targeted interventions aimed at reducing smoking and high blood pressure in lower socioeconomic groups would yield a greater reduction in stroke than targeting the same behaviors in higher socioeconomic groups."

The latest study involved 68,643 adults between the ages of 30 and 70. Participants were divided into low, medium and high education levels.

After assessing smoking and blood pressure levels, researchers found that 16 percent of men and 11 percent of women were at high-risk of stroke because of low education level, smoking and high blood pressure. The study also revealed that less educated smokers were significantly more likely to suffer stroke compared to their more educated counterparts.

"The distribution of stroke risk factors may vary across various contexts and study populations," Nordahl said. "However, since the most disadvantaged groups are often exposed to a wide number of stroke risk factors, it seems plausible that these people are at higher risk of stroke not only in Denmark, but also in other industrialized countries."

The findings are published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

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