M. Timio, P. Verdecchia, S. Gentili
Oct 1, 1988
In a prospective study, 144 white nuns belonging to a secluded monastic order and 138 white control laywomen were followed for 20 years to investigate whether living for a long time in a stress-free environment influences the effect of aging on blood pressure. Silence, meditation, and isolation from society are the distinctive features of the life-style examined. At study entry, blood pressure was not dissimilar in the nuns and the control group, but it increased over time only in the controls, with a mean slope of the regression line (β coefficient) of 0.089 in the nuns (NS) and 2.171 in the controls (p < 0.0001) for systolic blood pressure and of 0.054 in the nuns (NS) and 0.742 in the controls (p < 0.0001) for diastolk blood pressure. Weight and body mass Index Increased similarly over time in the two groups. Family history of hypertension was not dissimilar between the groups. Serum cholesterol and triglycerides, higher at study entry in the nuns, increased similarly over time in the two groups. Twenty-four-hour urinary sodium excretion, collected randomly in both groups, did not differ over time between nuns and controls. None of the women smoked or used oral contraceptives. Educational level was higher in the control group, but subgroups of 48 nuns and 52 laywomen of comparable educational level maintained the same difference in the blood pressure trend over time as in the main cohort. Parity affected the increase of systolic, but not of diastolic, blood pressure with age among the laywomen, but nuns and no-childbirth controls maintained a significantly different blood pressure trend over time. Our longitudinal study suggests that the Increase in blood pressure in women over 20 years may be avoided by living in a stress-free monastic environment characterized by silence, meditation, and isolation from society. The basic mechanisms of this phenomenon remain unexplained.