Childhood abuse damages the heart

August 9, 2010 by  

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Heart disease may have its origins quite early in life and may not have anything to do with lifestyle factors but rather with adverse childhood experiences. Researchers at the University of Toronto discovered that physical abuse during childhood can result in poor heart health later in life.

Previous studies have shown that childhood abuse leads to poor health outcomes in adulthood. This study found a strong link between child abuse and heart disease that persisted even after controlling for other adverse childhood experiences such as parental addictions or socioeconomic factors such as income and education level, lifestyle factors smoking, obesity and physical activity, and chronic conditions such as diabetes, self-reported stress hypertension and mood disorders.

According to Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson of the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Department of Family and Community Medicine:

“Individuals who reported they had been physically abused as children had 45 per cent higher odds of heart disease than their peers who had not been abused, despite the fact we had adjusted for most of the known risk factors for heart disease.”

Their results were based on a 2005 representative community survey conducted in two Canadian provinces of 13,000 respondents. The survey showed that 7% of the respondents had been physically abused as children and 4% had been diagnosed with heart disease.

The findings indicate a link between psychological and physical health but the mechanisms behind the link are not fully understood. According to co-author John Frank, director of Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy:

“Like many previous studies linking early life characteristics and experiences with late life serious disease, this study does not explain precisely how such links operate, biologically; further research will be required to understand that process.”

The results indicate a need for more intensive management of cardiovascular risk factors among those with a history of childhood abuse.

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2 Responses to “Childhood abuse damages the heart”
  1. AMB says:

    Ow. Well, that’s not reassuring news, but still it’s better to know this now. I was physically (and verbally) abused a whole lot in my childhood (and if that wasn’t enough, I had to endure overcriticism and victimization of child favoritism to my siblings). Bear in mind that none of what I’m telling you is in anyway an exaggeration please. Now, I’m a man who is almost middle-age, and I guess that this is where I’m going to have to pay a lot more attention to my heart, physically speaking, in all the ways, since I know now that my heart is more prone to disease. I’m speaking to you with sadness, not sarcasm, too. Even though there is no full explanation to this link of childhood abuse to later-life heart disease, it unfortunately makes sense. So, once again, this is sad to hear, but good to know. For all you parents, who have children, please do not abuse them and please do not criticize them too much and please please please do not pick one of your children to be at the bottom of the barrel. It will hurt them immensely, and as sad as it is to say, this intentional malice stays with the victimized child for all his/her life. Please don’t do any of this to your children.

  2. healy says:

    It’s a common sense notion that those who have been abused as children may became sick later in life. That’s why I love my children and they love me back! I love my health, I love my hearth

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