(U.S. Army/ Sgt. Shawn Miller)

(Reuters Health) - U.S. soldiers are more likely to have poor heart health than civilians of similar ages, a new study finds.

Comparing more than 263,000 active duty Army personnel to nearly 5,000 civilians, researchers found that soldiers were more likely to have high blood pressure and just as likely to have a higher than ideal body mass index (BMI), according to the report in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"We were surprised by the results," said lead author Loryana Vie, senior project director of a long-term collaboration between the U.S. Army and the University of Pennsylvania. "They were contrary to what we were expecting going into the study because of the Army's health screening and emphasis on physical fitness."

Ultimately, Vie said, the take-home message isn't just that soldiers have worse heart health than civilians, but rather that there is "so much room for improvement for everyone," she said. "There is an opportunity to improve the health of the whole country."

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VA courtesy photo

A quick and easy blood donation can help pave the way to better healthcare for veterans — and also provide answers to complex medical questions — through a new gene study program conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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