Childhood Trauma May Have Negative Effects On The Heart

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 05/23/2014 | 11:15 AM EDT

Researchers find link between early-life stress and heart disease

Your childhood experiences may have a great impact on your health, according to a new study.


The results from a study published in the journal Hypertension found that young adults who were exposed to adverse experiences as children have greater signs of unhealthy blood vessel function than young people without a traumatic past. The findings suggest that early-life stress may raise the risk of heart disease later on by affecting blood vessel function and blood pressure in ways that can be detected during young adulthood.


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For the study, researchers analyzed data on 221 healthy adolescents and young adults recruited for a study of cardiovascular risk factors that started in 1989. They also looked at markers of blood vessel health including blood pressure, the heart’s output of blood, characteristics of the pulse and levels of endothelin-1, a protein that constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure.


Based on a questionnaire participants answered when they were about 21 years old, researchers calculated adverse childhood event (ACE). Those who reported one traumatic event were classified as having mild ACE and those with two or more traumatic events were classified as moderate or severe ACE.


Participants who had one traumatic event in their childhood had plasma endothelin-1 levels that were an average of 18 percent higher than those who had reported no traumatic events, and those who had two or more traumatic childhood events had levels that were 24 percent or higher. Those with two or more adverse events also had elevated measures of blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness.


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Household dysfunction was the most common adverse event, followed by neglect and abuse.


Read the entire study here.

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