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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Emotional Stress in Childhood Linked to Stroke in Adulthood

Love, nurturing, and respect are basic human needs. Old-style TV shows to the contrary, most of us cannot lay claim to an idyllic childhood. Bumps, scrapes, and disappointments are simply a part of life. But for some kids, home life is truly a living nightmare. It is a little known fact that children who grow up in emotionally dysfunctional homes are 70 percent more likely to develop heart disease later in life. A new study, published in the medical journal Neurology, reports that emotionally neglected children also have a risk for stroke in adulthood that is far greater than expected.

In the study, conducted by Dr. Robert Wilson and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center, over 1000 adults ages 55 and up were surveyed about their memories of childhood experiences. Specific questions dealt with emotional neglect, fear of parents, and violence in the home.

Three-and-a-half years later, about one in four of the participants had died. The majority of those who had died underwent autopsies, including analysis of the brain tissue. People who reported the greatest amount of emotional neglect were nearly three times more likely to have died from a stroke compared to men and women who felt emotionally secure as children. The results held true even when other health factors were taken into account.

It’s heartbreaking that parental negligence may have such a lasting impact on the health and quality of an individual’s life decades into the future. While there are no easy solutions to the tragedies of child abuse and neglect, the study highlights the importance of loving parents, supportive families, and compassionate communities.


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Tags: Risk Factors for Heart Disease , Stress and the Heart

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.