Stress May Start Driving Cardiovascular and Metabolic Risk Early In Life: Evidence from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study
Ashley Winning et al. from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts report in the the Journal of the the American College of Cardiology that psychological stress in childhood, adulthood or persistent across a person’s life can contribute to high cardiovascular and metabolic risk.
Many clinical and epidemiological studies have documented the link between psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. Moreover, in individuals with heart disease stress is the strongest predictor of future cardiac events (cf. a Mayo Clinic study).
Recent evidence indicates that the origins of many adult diseases can be found among adversities in the early years of life. Yet, how and to what extent psychological stress in early childhood affects cardiovascular health remains poorly understood.
The Ashley Winning et al. study published in the Journal of the the American College of Cardiology is based on longitudinal data from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study.
This report is perhaps the first to suggest that “increased risk of cardiometabolic disease associated with distress in childhood may be maintained even if distress remits by adulthood”.
As per the mechanisms behind these relationships, the authors suggest that they may reflect effects of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system on processes related to cardiometabolic and immune functioning, blood pressure and lipid metabolism.
They also propose that psychological stress across the lifespan should be considered during cardiovascular risk assessment.
Source: J Am Coll Cardiol, 2015, 66:1577. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.08.021.
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