Studies have shown that exposure to physical and emotional abuse in childhood is associated with cardiovascular risk factors in adulthood, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. new study shows for the first time that well-organized households protect children who have experienced abuse from developing certain precursors to heart disease. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Our findings offer a glimmer of hope that nurturing and predictable home environments can mitigate the adverse health effects of childhood maltreatment,” said study co-author Nia Heard-Garris, MD, MSc. pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. of Chicago and assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The study found that in black men and white women with a history of childhood abuse, increased risks of high cholesterol were decreased if they grew up in well-organized households.
“It is encouraging to see that well-managed households, where family members are involved in children’s lives, help build the resilience of children who have experienced abuse, not only emotionally and cognitively, but also physically,” Dr. Heard-Garris said. “Our findings also suggest that the racial disparities that are commonly seen in heart disease may play a lesser role when children are raised in homes that provide a stable environment, as opposed to chaotic and overly permissive environments.”
Dr. Heard-Garris and his colleagues used data from the ongoing Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. In 1985, the CARDIA Longitudinal Cohort began following 5,115 African American and white adults to study the course of coronary heart disease during adulthood. From 1985 to 1986, participants aged 18 to 30 were recruited from four urban areas: Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Ill.; Minneapolis, Minnesota and Oakland, California. As part of the study, childhood environments (i.e., exposure to abuse, upbringing, and well-organized households) were retrospectively examined during the assessment conducted 15 years after the basic exam. The incidence of cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, was prospectively examined from baseline.
“The information from our study could inform early interventions designed to prevent heart disease after adverse events in children,” Dr. Heard-Garris said.
Research at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago is conducted by the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving the health of children, transforming pediatric medicine, and ensuring a healthier future through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked among the nation’s top children’s hospitals by US news and world report. It is the pediatric training ground of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Journal of the American Heart Association
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