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A happy childhood is the link to better heart health in adulthood

Posted:  Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Children who had favourable psychosocial experiences while growing up could have better cardiovascular health in adulthood compared to those who didn’t, say American researchers.

Positive psychosocial experiences include being in a family that practises healthy eating habits, is financially secure, offers a stable emotional environment, and where children learn to curb aggressiveness and impulsiveness and become socially amiable. The results of this study were elucidated in the journal Circulation.

The researchers analysed 3,577 children ranging in age from 3–18 years. They measured six factors, namely socioeconomic status, emotional stability, parental health behaviours, stressful events, self-regulation of behavioural problems and social adjustment. After 27 years of follow up, they assessed the cardiovascular health of 1,089 of the participants, now aged 30–45 years.

The study found that participants with the most psychosocial advantages in youth scored higher on an ideal cardiovascular health index in adulthood than those with the least psychosocial advantages. The researchers calculated "ideal cardiovascular health” using the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7: being active, controlling cholesterol, eating healthy, controlling blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking.

They found that children with maximum positive psychosocial experiences had 14% greater chance of being a normal weight adult, 12% greater chance of being a non-smoking adult and 11% greater chance of having normal blood glucose as an adult. "The choices parents make have a long-lasting effect on their children's future health, and improvement in any one thing can have measurable benefits," said study senior author Laura Pulkki-Råback.

These findings aptly highlight the importance of early life stages, a phase during which cardiovascular diseases may take root. Thus, both scientific evidence and traditional wisdom suggest that investing in a child’s welfare could indeed yield long-term good results.

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