Utahns aren't just well educated, they are healthy, too.

Doug Vilnius, community health services director for the Utah Department of Health, thinks those two factors are related. "When we ask people about their health, there is a direct correlation between their schooling and their practices."A study released by the Centers for Disease Control, kind of a national health examination, shows that Hawaii is the state with the nation's lowest rate of preventable deaths from nine major diseases, only 26.4 percent of 2,817 deaths. Utah ties with North Dakota for the title of second lowest number of deaths from preventable diseases, at 33.2 percent.

Michigan had the highest rate - 53.5 percent - followed by West Virginia at 53.3 percent, New York with 52.6 percent, Ohio at 52.1 percent and Kentucky with 52 percent.

The study looked at deaths from stroke, lung cancer, coronary heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, cervical cancer, chronic liver disease, colorectal cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 1986, the latest year figures were available.

Utah health officials are used to basking in the news of the population's clean bill of health. "We expect it," Vilnius said. "Our only surprise is that we're No. 2."

According to statistics from the Office of Education, Utah leads the nation in the percentage of adults who have finished three years of high school. In addition, 80 percent of the state's adults have graduated from high school, the second highest ranking the country.

Vilnius thinks the link is obvious. People who are educated about healthful lifestyle choices are more likely to practice preventive health.

Utah has the nation's lowest percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes, he said. "And that consistently has been shown as the most significant factor affecting our state's health status."

Utahns' blood pressure is a bit higher than the national average, as are our cholesterol rates. Cancer rates are a bit lower, but incidence of skin cancer is higher.

"Our exercise levels are about the same. We don't seem to exercise a whole lot more than other people do," Vilnius said.

According to Steven M. Teutsch, an epidemiologist at the center, the study found smoking contributed to the most deaths from the nine diseases, 33 percent. Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes followed.