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Soc Sci Med. 2000 Mar;50(6):773-95.

Economic development and women's blood pressure: field evidence from rural Mashonaland, Zimbabwe.

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  • 1Department of Geography, African Studies Center, Institute of International Health, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824, USA.


A survey of 515 non-pregnant women at 12 geographically chosen research sites in rural Mashonaland shows significant differences in mean blood pressure, controlled by age cohorts. Three levels of economic development are identified: (1) the traditional economy on communal lands, with lowest blood pressure, (2) the wage economy in areas of large-scale commercial agriculture, with elevated blood pressure and (3) the wage economy in mining areas, with the highest elevation of blood pressure. The area is dominated by the primate city, Harare, up to distances of 300 km and beyond, from which forces of change and modernization emanate. It is seen that potassium, sodium and the sodium potassium ratio, are distance-related to Harare and that women's blood pressures tend to follow suit. The rise of body sodium in young persons at risk, often accompanied by declining potassium intake and other changes of modernization, suggest that more attention should be focused on rural areas in Africa, now in the throes of economic change.

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