Stressful events during childhood could be linked to high blood pressure later in life

Thu, 16 Apr 2015
Traumatic childhood events could increase the risk of high blood pressure later in life, according to new research.

The study, conducted at the Medical College of Georgia, involved around the 400 participants. Their lives were followed for over two decades, and the researchers found that those who experienced traumatic events as children had significantly increased blood pressure by the age of 30.

High blood pressure is a significant issue for people with diabetes. Over time, prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels can damage the arteries, which increases the diabetic individual's risk of heart disease.

Heart disease is one of the most common diabetic complications. It is estimated that 80 per cent of people with diabetes will die from heart-related health conditions. It is vital, therefore, that people with diabetes maintain good control over their blood pressure, because high blood pressure increases the risk of damage to the arteries and impairment of blood flow.

A recent study, conducted at Linkoping University in Sweden, found that stressful childhood experiences also increase the likelihood of type 1 diabetes. Physiological responses to stressful situations increase the body's demand for insulin, which places a greater strain on the pancreas and could, according to the study, increase the risk of beta cell death.

The studies point to the great importance of emotional wellbeing for people with diabetes.

The study was limited by its small size. More research would need to be conducted in a larger population to definitively establish a causal link between stressful childhood situations and high blood pressure later in life. In other words, the study only shows that the two commonly occurred together; it did not establish that high blood pressure is necessarily caused by childhood stress.

"Most previous studies looked at the effect of childhood trauma on adult's health in middle age or older; our finding is significant because for the first time we found that the influence on the adverse childhood experiences on blood pressure could be observed in younger adulthood, around 30 years old," said lead author Shaoyong Su, researcher at the Medical College of Georgia, told Scientific American.

Dan Stein, chair of psychiatry at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said: "I'd suggest that many of the traumas measured in this and previous studies are preventable. But where it has occurred, clinicians should be on the alert for potential physical and mental consequences."
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