Troubled childhoods can lead to a host of health problems in adulthood, with heart disease as a prime possibility, suggests new research presented today. The evidence shows that heightened reactivity to adverse childhood experiences, such as lower socioeconomic status, isolation and negative events can affect the development of disease. In present 212 teens, ages 14-16, were examined over three years to see whether poverty was linked to more sensitivity to stress and early signs of heart disease. Included those from a range of economic status and not only low-income. Equal numbers of blacks and whites and girls and boys were included. The participants were deemed healthy and none was considered morbidly obese. Levels of carotid artery thickening, stiffness of arteries and blood pressure was monitored throughout the day and night to gauge the onset of disease. Children from poor economic households had stiffer arteries years later and had higher blood pressure as well as more thickening of their carotid artery walls. Although some data suggests that stress accumulation over the lifespan increases risk for disease, the data suggests there are critical times when stress has more impact. And that is during those adolescent years. This data suggests that this age group is more vulnerable to cardiovascular risks if they are exposed to various stressors because of their hormonal changes and their sensitivity to peer rejection, acceptance and how they interpret others’ attitudes towards themselves.Children in households from lower socioeconomic levels react more to negative situations and increase their risk for heart disease.The sample of 201 black and white children and adolescents, ages 8-10 and 15-17, were presented with negative and ambiguous social situations. Children from poorer homes interpreted both sets of situations as threatening. They had higher blood pressure and heart rates and higher scores on measures of hostility and anger during three stress tasks in the lab.
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