November 30, 2011
Science Daily/American Heart Association
Sexually and physically abused girls may have higher risks for heart attacks, heart disease and strokes as adults, according to new research.
In the study, compared to women who weren't molested or raped as children or teens, women who reported:
Repeated episodes of forced sex in childhood or adolescence had a 62 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease as adults.
Severe physical abuse in childhood or adolescence was associated with a 45 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events.
Mild to moderate physical or sexual abuse was not associated with increased risk.
"The single biggest factor explaining the link between severe child abuse and adult cardiovascular disease was the tendency of abused girls to have gained more weight throughout adolescence and into adulthood,' said Janet Rich-Edwards, Sc.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass.
"Women who experience abuse need to take special care of their physical and emotional well-being to reduce their risk of chronic disease," Rich-Edwards said. "Primary care health professionals need to consider childhood abuse histories of women as they transition into adulthood but to help the health professionals prevent cardiovascular disease among women with a history of abuse, we need to learn more about specific psychological, lifestyle, and medical interventions to improve the health of abuse survivors."