Childhood trauma could lead to adult hypertension

Childhood trauma could lead to adult hypertension

Children who have been victims of abuse or neglect may be at greater risk of battling high blood pressure as adults, according to one study.

Researchers found that the more negative life experiences children had, the higher their blood pressure was when they reached young adulthood.

“Adults who are victims of child abuse can experience many different types of difficulties including depression, anxiety, and difficulty developing healthy relationships,” says Dr. Kevin Krippner, licensed clinical psychologist with Advocate Medical Group at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Counseling for these adults can make a significant difference in reducing symptoms as well as improving general quality of life.”

The study, conducted by the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) and published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, involved nearly 400 students in a Georgia public school system. Researchers measured the students’ blood pressure an average of 13 times over 23 years.

Once the participants reached the age of 18, they were asked if they had ever experienced “adverse childhood events” such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect, or if they had witnessed domestic or substance abuse in their home.

Around 70 percent indicated they had been exposed to at least one event, and 18 percent had encountered three or more.

“We hope these studies will reinforce the need to screen children and young adults for adverse childhood events, so this increased risk can be identified early to enhance resiliency and recovery and lessen the burden of cardiovascular disease later in life,” study author Shaoyong Su said in a news release.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead not only to heart disease, but stroke and kidney disease as well, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It affects one of three American adults and is a factor in nearly 1,000 deaths each day.

Hypertension is just one of several lingering effects of childhood trauma that can impact victims long into adulthood.

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take our heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see one of Advocate Heart Institute’s cardiologists within 24 hours.

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About the Author

Eric Alvin
Eric Alvin

Eric Alvin, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. He has more than 20 years of experience in both internal and external health care communications, media relations, and creating online and print marketing content. He has a great love of classic cinema and is a big fan of Turner Classic Movies.