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Stress in childhood may contribute to disease

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Individuals who faced significant adversity as a child - such as abuse or poverty - may want to consider blood pressure and cholesterol testing, as a new study has found that experiencing these conditions at a young age may make a person more prone to heart disease.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh recruited 212 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 16 into their study. They measured the socioeconomic standing of the teenagers' families by looking at the value of their assets. They then took measurements of their heart health at several points through the course of the study.

Investigators found that children who grow up in more impoverished conditions tended to have poorer heart health later in life.

"Many diseases first diagnosed in mid-life can be traced back to childhood," said Karen A. Matthews, who led the study. "The evidence shows that certain reactions to adverse childhood experiences associated with lower socioeconomic status, isolation and negative events can affect the disease process."

She added that the accumulation of stress throughout a lifetime may play a large role in the development of heart disease, but that there appear to be certain "critical periods" in which stress has a larger impact.

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