Early hardship tied to blood pressure dysfunction when older
Adverse conditions in early life — ranging from abuse or neglect to low socioeconomic status — have been linked to a significant increase in blood pressure conditions during adulthood.
In the study funded by National Institutes of Health's National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, researchers logged blood pressure in 373 participants over a 23-year span, with subjects ranging from age 7 to 38. Individuals reporting childhood hardship were found to be 17 percent more likely to have high blood pressure based on the clinical definition of hypertension.
“Adverse environments in early life have been consistently associated with the increased risk of hypertension in later life,” Shaoyong Su, lead author and associate professor of pediatrics at Augusta University Medical College of Georgia, said. “We found that children who experienced childhood abuse or neglect, dysfunctional homes and low socioeconomic status, were far more likely to have higher blood pressure at night as well as blood pressure variability over 24 hours, in addition to more rapid onset of hypertension at an earlier age.”
While doctors generally note average blood pressure readings in adult patients, the new findings indicate that it would be advisable to inquire about adverse childhood events in younger patients.
“This is not something most clinicians currently address, but it is a simple step that could identify many individuals at risk of adult hypertension and help them achieve control at an earlier age,” Su said. “This could avoid problems as they age.”
Variable blood pressure in adulthood has been tied to a higher risk of decreased brain function, stroke and stroke recovery, as well as heart disease.
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