According to research, happy kids may become adults with lower heart attack risk

March 17, 2016

I know that how we raise our kids affects who they might be later in life, but according to a Finnish study, their levels of stress could have consequences on their health as adults. 

According to the study, kids who live in a stress-free environment could grow up to be adults with a lower risk of heart attacks than their peers who experience social, emotional or financial difficulties during childhood.

According to a post on Yahoo, researchers assessed these challenges – known as psychosocial factors – in 311 kids at age 12 and 18. Then, at age 28, they looked for calcium deposits in their arteries that can narrow blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attacks.

The adults who had high psychosocial wellbeing as kids were 15 percent less likely to have calcium deposits clogging their arteries as adults, the study found.

Among other things, this study measured psychosocial wellbeing by looking at family income and education levels, parents’ job status, parents’ mental health and history of smoking or substance abuse, parents’ weight and exercise habits, stressful events such as divorce, death or moves, as well as the child’s level of aggressive or anti-social behaviors and ability to interact with other people.

In addition, researchers analyzed results from computed tomography (CT) scans of coronary arteries to assess the amount of calcium clogging vessels.

Overall, 55 participants, or about 18 percent, had at least some calcification in their arteries. Among this group with calcification, 28 participants had low levels of buildup, 20 had moderate amounts of calcium and 7 had substantial deposits, the study found.

Even after accounting for adult circumstances like psychosocial factors and risk factors for heart disease like obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, the research team still found wellbeing during childhood influenced the odds that coronary arteries would be clogged for adults.

The study is observational and doesn’t prove childhood stress causes clogged arteries or heart attacks, only that the two things are related, the authors note.

It’s possible, however, that stress during childhood might trigger changes in metabolic functioning and inflammation that later contribute to calcium deposits in the arteries, the researchers point out.

It’s also possible that happier kids may develop healthier habits like better diets and more rigorous exercise routines that help keep arteries unclogged and lower their risk of heart disease later in life.

“The take-home message for parents is to understand that stress in childhood may have many adverse effects and that they should help their children avoid stress,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

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