Researchers at the American Heart Association explored how childhood abuse may increase cholesterol levels and risks of heart diseases and stroke. The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The research team reviewed information from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. In the study, periodically, for over 30 years, 5,115 black and white adult participants had to undergo clinical examinations for assessing their cardiovascular risks. They also completed a survey of questions to assess areas of their family life during childhood like abuse, parental behavior, household organization, etc.
The results reaffirmed the link between cardiovascular risks, high cholesterol and childhood abuse. Most of the participants reported no childhood abuse, whereas less than half of the participants reported occasional/frequent abuse or infrequent low abuse. Among the adults who reported abuse in childhood, the risk of high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes was reported to be higher than the adults with healthy developmental experiences. However, the risk factors appeared to vary according to gender and race.
The researchers are enthusiastic that this research can help formulate more effective and inclusive cardiovascular disease prevention interventions and policies. In the words of one of the lead researchers, Liliana Aguayo, this study helps “to better understand the potential mechanisms linking childhood abuse and family environment to higher heart disease risk factors, as well as the impact of structural racism and social determinants of health.”
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Aguayo, L., Chirinos, D. A., Heard‐Garris, N., Wong, M., Davis, M. M., Merkin, S. S., Seeman, T., & Kershaw, K. N. (2022). Association of exposure to abuse, nurture, and household organization in childhood with 4 cardiovascular disease risks factors among participants in the CARDIA study. Journal of the American Heart Association. https://doi.org/10.1161/jaha.121.023244