Trauma in childhood increases risks of heart disease later in life

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People who experienced trauma, were neglected or grew up in dysfunctional families at a young age are more likely to have cardiovascular disease. That’s according to a study from Feinberg University in Chicago.

Risky behaviour

Researchers suspect that setbacks in youth lead to people taking more risks when it comes to their health. For example, people with childhood trauma make less healthy food choices, putting themselves at increased risk of obesity and heart disease. Often, comfort is also sought in nasty habits such as smoking, which can again result in heart disease, among other things.

50% more likely to have cardiovascular disease

The scientists analyzed data from 3,600 people between 18 and 30 years old in a 30-year study. In 2000, participants had to fill out a questionnaire indicating the extent to which they had experienced traumatic situations at home, such as verbal aggression and physical violence. At the end of the study, it was found that people with the greatest trauma had more than a 50% chance of cardiovascular disease compared to those who were less likely to be confronted with such facts.

Multiple risk factors

When, in addition to those trauma experiences, the scientists included other personal data in the analysis, such as smoking, blood pressure and educational attainment, the trauma was found to be just one of the factors influencing health. The socio-economic, clinical, demographic and psychological situation can also cause cardiovascular disease. “Trauma in childhood will affect children’s ability to adequately deal with and respond to emotionally stressful experiences.

As a result, people often use high-calorie foods as a mechanism to deal with psychosocial stress, which contributes to the development of obesity,” explains Professor Feinglass.