Stress during Childhood Increases Susceptibility to High Blood Pressure and Obesity in Adulthood, study Shows

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Scientists have revealed an unexpected connection between stress encountered during childhood and adolescence, and an elevated likelihood of encountering cardiometabolic diseases in later stages of life.

Early childhood stress contributes to cardiometabolic diseases in adulthood

According to an article published in the American Heart Association journal, individuals subjected to consistently high perceived stress demonstrate a heightened susceptibility to conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and other cardiometabolic risk factors.

The study encompassed the evaluation of 276 participants from the Southern California Children’s Health Study. The researchers utilized the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), a popular instrument for gauging stress perception among study subjects. The PSS quantifies the degree to which individuals evaluate situations in their lives as stressful.

In the early stages of childhood until approximately the age of 6, PSS emanated from the responses furnished by the parents of the participants. Subsequently, the participants themselves documented their stress levels.

Following this, the participants were categorized into four groups based on risk: consistently elevated stress, diminishing stress, escalating stress, and consistently low stress over the duration. Assessment of their cardiometabolic risk scores encompassed measurements of factors such as thickness of neck arteries, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, body weight, percentage of body fat, fat distribution, and hemoglobin A1c.

Upon conducting the analysis, the researchers observed a correlation between heightened perceived stress levels and an increased susceptibility to cardiometabolic health conditions.

High stress levels linked to cardiometabolic health conditions

Individuals who undergo increased stress levels from adolescence to adulthood are more likely to exhibit adverse effects on their vascular health, including higher total body fat, increased abdominal fat, and an elevated risk of obesity compared to those experiencing lower stress levels, according to researchers. The study also found a correlation between higher perceived stress levels and an increased risk of cardiometabolic health conditions.

For instance, adults with elevated stress levels tended to have poorer vascular health and higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It is important to acknowledge that the study’s limitation lies in its relatively small participant size.

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