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Inequality is a cause of high blood pressure

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Extreme social and financial inequality is an unacknowledged cause of high blood pressure (hypertension), independent of all the usual known factors, such as diet and exercise.

It’s apparent even in communities where heart disease is rare, such as among the Tsimane people of the Bolivian Amazon.  

The Tsimanes have been researched for around 20 years since it was discovered they had some of the lowest incidents of heart disease recorded anywhere in the world.  They also live closer to the way we all lived before industrialization.

Even so, high blood pressure was still seen in the poorest Tsimane communities, researchers from Washington State University have recorded.

But the condition doesn’t seem to lead to more serious problems such as cardiovascular disease, and this is probably due to the Tsimanes’ healthy lifestyle, which still includes foraging, hunting, fishing and crop growing.

Although the Tsimane social order is mainly egalitarian, there was still some inequality, and blood pressure readings were highest in the communities where inequality was also more distinct.  “It’s bad to be poor, but it’s also bad to be poorer,” said researcher Adrian Jaeggi.

(Source: eLife, 2021; 10; doi: 10.7554/eLife.59437)

 

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