DEC 19, 2017 6:26 AM PST

Increasing Risk of Heart Disease for Children Facing Abuse and Adversity

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Unhealthy responses to stress, whether physical or emotional, as a result of abuse, violence, and other experiences of adversity in childhood and teen years are linked to an increased risk of heart disease later in life. A recent review of research led by the American Heart Association (AHA) came to this conclusion, and now experts are hoping to find new ways to prevent both heart disease and negative childhood experiences that raise the risk of developing it.

"We are talking about children and teens experiencing physical and sexual abuse and witnessing violence,” said Shakira Suglia, ScD from Emory University. “Sadly, the negative consequences of experiencing these events does not end when the experience ends, it lasts many years after exposure."

Experts report that over half of all Americans report experiencing some sort of adversity in their childhood, whether it is violence, bullying, abuse, or some other threat to their physical or social well-being. Not all who experience adversity will develop heart disease because of it, though, which means that there are certain factors that counter the effect of adversity.

Researchers found a strong connection between children who have adverse experiences and adults who ultimately develop risk factors for heart disease like obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes earlier than individuals who did not have these experiences growing up. And has research has shown time and time again, these well-established risk factors for heart disease often lead to coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

"We need more research to better understand how to help people who have had adversity in childhood prevent or delay the development of heart and blood vessel diseases,” researchers from the AHA wrote.

How are experiences of adversity and heart health related? The specific mechanisms are difficult to pin down, but ultimately researchers believe that it is behavioral, mental, and biological reactions to increased stress from childhood adversity that lead to heart disease later in life.

For example, studies show that chronic childhood stress is linked to depression, anxiety, and mood disorders, as well as the disturbance of of immune, metabolic, nervous, and endocrine development and function.

Going forward, AHA researchers and other experts plan on studying the link between childhood adversity and heart disease further, with the hope that early identification of high-risk individuals can help reduce the overall burden of heart disease.

The present study was published in the journal Circulation.

Sources: American Heart Association

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 30, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Is it Safe to Travel to Mars?
AUG 30, 2021
Is it Safe to Travel to Mars?
It should be safe for humans to travel to Mars, provided journeys don’t take more than four years. The correspondi ...
SEP 14, 2021
Immunology
The Spleen Creates Long-Lasting Protection Against the Flu Virus
SEP 14, 2021
The Spleen Creates Long-Lasting Protection Against the Flu Virus
You share an elevator with an individual who is coughing and sneezing, only to find yourself feeling unwell a few days l ...
SEP 14, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Record Activist Murders and Illegal Logging
SEP 14, 2021
Record Activist Murders and Illegal Logging
Last year, 2020, was the deadliest year for conservation activists. According to Global Witness, 227 environmental ...
SEP 14, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A novel drug that targets the removal of pathogenic antibodies in myasthenia gravis
SEP 14, 2021
A novel drug that targets the removal of pathogenic antibodies in myasthenia gravis
Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by muscle weakness and fatigue. The disorder leads to a ...
SEP 16, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A shot for sore eyes: a novel injectable drug to treat age-related vision loss
SEP 16, 2021
A shot for sore eyes: a novel injectable drug to treat age-related vision loss
According to the Population Reference Bureau, 40 million people in the United States are aged 65 and older. This nu ...
SEP 22, 2021
Cardiology
Towards a Gene Therapy for Heart Regeneration
SEP 22, 2021
Towards a Gene Therapy for Heart Regeneration
For years, researchers at the Texas Heart Institute have been investigating the natural biochemical processes related to ...
Loading Comments...