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Wellbeing in Childhood Impacts Adult Heart Health

CardioSmart News

Key indicators of a child’s well-being may impact risk for heart disease later in life, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is among the largest of its kind, tracking cardiovascular risk from childhood into adulthood to assess the impact of lifestyle, biological and psychological measures on heart health. Following an initial survey of children in Finland between the ages of 3 and 18 in 1980, researchers collected information about participants’ cardiovascular health 27 years later in adulthood. In addition to collecting key information about heart health, researchers inquired about positive psychosocial experiences during childhood, such as financial stability, the ability to regulate emotions and behavior, and having a stable emotional environment at home.

After analysis, researchers found a positive association between a higher number of favorable psychosocial factors in youth and better heart health in adulthood. In other words, the more emotional and social support a child had growing up, the lower their risk for developing heart disease later in life. And among the psychosocial factors included in the study, financial stability and the ability to regulate emotions and behavior in childhood were most closely related to better heart health in adulthood.

Findings add to a growing body of evidence linking ones mental and emotional well-being to cardiovascular health. In addition to well-established cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol and obesity, it’s clear that factors like stress and social support play an important role in heart health. Findings from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study also highlight the importance of emotional well-being during childhood, as habits developed early in life can have a significant impact on physical and mental health down the road.
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