Childhood trauma raises lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease, early death

Traumatic experiences in childhood, such as abuse or living with caregivers with substance use disorders, can increase an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease and early death, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“The results of this study further confirm that cardiovascular disease is not simply a problem at older ages, but has its origins in childhood experiences,” Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in an April 28, 2020 article in HealthDay. Koenen, who was not involved in the study, was part of a 2017 American Heart Association committee that looked at childhood adversity and heart health outcomes.

Some of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease may be because those who have experienced childhood trauma are more likely to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking and poor eating habits. But it doesn’t fully explain the link, or the increased risk of early death, Koenen said.

As the mechanisms behind the relationship between childhood adversity and poor lifetime health continue to be explored, Koenen called for improvements in the treatment of children currently facing adverse experiences.

She said, “The public health burden of childhood adversity in the U.S. is a social problem that cannot be placed on the shoulders of individual health providers, but must be tackled on a large scale.”

Read the HealthDay article: Traumatic Childhood Increases Lifelong Risk for Heart Disease, Early Death

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