Obesity and hypertension among college-educated black women in the United States

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It is established that obesity is an important risk factor for hypertension, but there is little information on this relationship among highly educated black women. We assessed the relationship of body mass index (weight (kg/height2 (m)) to prevalent hypertension among US black women who had completed college, and among less educated women as well. The data were collected in 1995 in the Black Women's Health Study: 64,530 African-American women aged 21 to 69 years enrolled by completing mailed health questionnaires; 44% of the participants had completed college. We compared the 9394 participants who reported a diagnosis of hypertension treated with a diuretic or antihypertensive drug (cases) with 9259 participants of similar ages who did not have hypertension (controls). Multivariate odds ratios were estimated by logistic regression. The odds ratio for treated hypertension increased with increasing body mass index at every educational level. Among college-educated women, the odds ratio for hypertension was 2.7 for overweight women (index 27.3-32.3) and 4.9 for severely overweight women (index ≥ 32.3), relative to women with a body mass index < 22.8. The prevalences of obesity and hypertension were high among the college-educated women, although not as high as among women with fewer years of education. About a quarter of the difference in the prevalence of hypertension across educational levels was explained by the difference in the proportions who were overweight or severely overweight. These results document a high prevalence of obesity and hypertension, and a strong association of obesity with hypertension, among highly educated US black women.

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