Friday, January 16th, 2015
Heart disease—the number one killer of men and women in the United States—is not something to ignore, and with National Heart Month just around the corner, the latest heart health research is coming at just the right time.
According to a new study, published in Circulation, earlier this week, a positive childhood experience could actually benefit heart health later in life. The study examined the psychosocial advantages of 1,100 participants, between the ages of 3 and 18, to determine whether certain factors had an impact on their hearts as adults, like whether they were brought up in a financially secure environment and if their families fostered positive health choices and social skills at a young age.
Each individual’s cardiovascular health was then evaluated 27 years later, and the results concluded that the adults who had been exposed to the most psychosocial advantages had better heart health. Fourteen percent of the adults were more likely to be at a normal weight, 12 percent were more likely to not smoke, and 11 percent were more likely to have healthy blood sugar levels,” according to HealthyDay.
Although this study finds a correlation between a positive childhood experience and better heart health in adulthood, it does not prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Even so, the environments we’re raised in can influence our lives, so one of the keys to decreasing health disease in our country may be to provide kids with a stable and healthy childhood. And as February approaches, be on the look-out for more (and sometimes tasty!) ways to combat heart disease.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Image: Happy Children via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 28th, 2014
Women who have given birth four or more times are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease according to a new study. Compared to women who’ve had fewer pregnancies, in the study of more than 1,500 women, moms with more children showed increased evidence of plaque in the heart and thickening of arteries. More from American College of Cardiology:
Women who give birth to four or more children are much more likely to have evidence of plaque in their heart or thickening of their arteries – early signs of cardiovascular disease – compared with those having fewer pregnancies, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.
While earlier studies have shown an association between several aspects of pregnancy – physiological changes, complications, number of pregnancies – and future heart disease risk, many questions remain about how pregnancy might affect cardiovascular risk. To better understand the potential link, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center set out to determine whether the number of live births is associated with early signs of cardiovascular disease.
“This is not a recommendation for women to only have two or three children,” said Monika Sanghavi, M.D., chief cardiology fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and lead investigator of the study. This is the first study to look at two markers of subclinical atherosclerosis – a gradual narrowing and hardening of the arteries that can eventually block blood flow and lead to stroke and heart attack.
“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that the changes associated with pregnancy may provide insight into a woman’s future cardiovascular risk and deserves further attention.”
The study included 1,644 women from the Dallas Heart Study, a multiethnic population-based cohort, who had both self-reported information about the number of live births and relevant imaging study data available. The average age at the time of analysis was 45 years and slightly more than half of the women (55 percent) were African-American. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores were measured using computed tomography imaging and aortic wall thickness (AWT) by magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether or not women had evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis in the heart and artery walls. CAC was positive if it was greater than 10 and AWT was abnormal if it was greater than the 75th percentile for age and gender. These tests were done as part of standard subject participation in the Dallas Heart Study.
Using women who had two or three live births as a reference, women who had given birth to four or more children had an approximately two-fold increased risk of having abnormal CAC or AWT. This association remained even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, education, race and factors known to heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease. Women who had more babies were more likely to be older, Hispanic, have high blood pressure, higher body mass index and lower socioeconomic status.
Curiously, women who had zero or just one live birth were also more likely to show evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis – revealing a U-shaped relationship.
Authors say it is unclear why this might be the case. But Sanghavi and others speculate they may have captured some women in this group who have an underlying condition that prevents them from carrying a first or second pregnancy to term, which may also predispose them to cardiovascular disease or risk factors. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome can have menstrual irregularities and trouble getting pregnant, but they may also have other health changes such as excess body weight, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Pregnancy itself sparks a cascade of changes that can place more strain on a woman’s cardiovascular system. For example, the volume of blood being pumped through the heart increases by 50 percent. In addition, other physiological and metabolic changes occur (e.g., increased insulin resistance and higher cholesterol levels).
“Pregnancy has been called ‘nature’s stress test,’ and for good reason,” Sanghavi said. “It may also help identify women who are at increased risk [for heart disease], even though right now they may not have any risk factors.”…
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Image: Big happy family – a mother and seven children drawing a heart together at home via Shutterstock.
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