Numerous observations have indicated a relationship between moderate or heavy lead exposure and high blood pressure. To determine whether low-level lead exposure is related to blood pressure in the U.S. population, we analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey II for persons 12 to 74 years of age. Significant correlations were found between blood lead and blood pressure for each race-gender group, and blood lead levels were significantly higher in groups with high diastolic blood pressure (greater than 90 mm Hg). Multiple stepwise regression models were developed to predict blood pressure. After adjusting for age, race, and body mass index, blood lead levels were significantly related to systolic and diastolic pressures in males but not in females. These findings and those from other studies confirm the relationship of blood lead and blood pressure at relatively low levels commonly observed in the general population. The strength and importance of this relationship require further study through epidemiologic and metabolic investigations.
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